Effort targets municipal natural areas
By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Thursday, April 19, 2012
Hit the road, Jack, the city won’t mow no more, no mow no more, no mow.
Well, it’s not going to mow in some areas anyway. And if your kids mow your lawn, you might not want to let them read this, unless they agree to read the whole story.
As part of ongoing efforts to make the city more sustainable, Elgin officials recently implemented “no-mow zones” in some parts of the city.
During last week’s City Council meeting, city management analyst Aaron Cosentino gave a brief Alternative Landscaping report to the council about the no-mow zones.
Earlier in the week, he had described the no-mow zones as an expansion of existing measures to naturalize the city’s landscape. Ultimately, he said, those no-mow areas would come to resemble the grassy areas inside the animal pens at Lords Park Zoo.
Cosentino told the council the no-mow zones will complement, for example, the city’s watershed management plans, which generally favor the growth of taller, deeper-rooted plants along riparian areas that border creeks and rivers. Native grasses, he said, put down deeper roots than the grass used in lawns, and the deeper roots of those native grasses and other native plants are one way of combatting soil erosion.
The no-mow zones will be scattered throughout city, with the most significant one located north of Gail Borden Public Library. He told the council another will be around the Lords Park detention basins. The city is installing signs that will identify each zone for the public, and will add brochure boxes at more high-traffic areas to inform residents about what no-mow zones are.
Cosentino also said the use of no-mow zones is not appropriate at all sites. But they are good for sloped areas and areas where there is not a lot of foot traffic, for example.
Other benefits, Cosentino told the council, include that:
- They increase the dynamic appearance of park areas, where no-mow zones appear lusher, greener.
- No-mow zones encourage insects and birds that eat mosquitoes;
- The zones discourage geese, which actually prefer to gather in areas where the grass or brush is very short, from congregating in the areas.
City Manager Sean Stegall added that the zones save the city the cost of mowing them.
He also said the city was not abandoning weed control in those no-mow areas or elsewhere in Elgin.
So those who have a distaste for yard work should not be too eager to institute their own no-mow policy for their own properties, at least not unless they are willing to dedicate the time and expense of converting their yards to native grasses and other plants.
Cosentino said that native grasses and plantings can be exempted from the city’s weed control/yard-cutting ordinance requirements, but the exemptions are specific. A homeowner can’t decide simply to stop mowing the grass, because yard grass are not native to the area.
In recent years, Elgin has taken many steps in its effort toward becoming a sustainable community, including the adoption of a sustainability action plan and, more recently, the creation of a sustainability commission. The no-mow areas are a part of those efforts.
According to the city’s sustainability master plan, Elgin’s sustainability movement is guided by these principles:
- To create a self-sustaining community.
- To ensure that future generations can enjoy at least the same natural resources that we did.
- To preserve, minimize and restore.
- To accept that we are one species among many.
- To evaluate current practices and policies to lessen our environmental footprint.