Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Grounds Maintenance

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Grounds Maintenance

Article excerpt

Finding greener, more economical solutions

WHEN DOUGLAS COUNTY. COLORADO, was planning two new parks in 2003, a drought in the area spurred staff to pursue a design to reduce irrigation needs. The tiered turf concept they chose mixes the use of synthetic and irrigated turfs, native and non-native low-water turfs, ornamental grasses and hard and soft surface areas of concrete and crushed rock.

Some watering, while other surfaces require less water than traditional grass playing fields, That has cut projected water use by about 50 percent and reduced the need for fertilizing, mowing, and other maintenance at the two parks. "Changing your way of thinking isn't necessarily bad, Water is a finite resource, especially in the West. Any time we're able to cut our consumption, it's a positive thing. Any time we cut our fertilizer use, it's a compounding solution, It just kind of feeds upon itself," says Randy Burkhardt, Director of Parks, Trails and Building Grounds for Douglas County, just south of Denver.

Many park and recreation departments around the country are finding ways to put more green into their grounds with environmentally friendly practices and products. Some agencies have installed waterless urinals and solar-powered lights in public bathrooms and on athletic fields. Others use fuel- conserving equipment. Another measure is computerized irrigation systems that monitor watering based on rainfall, humidity, and soil moisture rather than routine.

Some departments use environmentally friendly cleaning agents, biodegradable bags for pet waste at dog parks, and such alternative products as a molasses-based application for fields that retains water to reduce irrigation. Green practices can be as simple as planting trees, wildflowers and other vegetation to decrease mowing needs, fuel use. and emissions. "Local parks are a good place to show what can be done," says Bill Beckner, NRPAs research manager. "As a whole, we're a little ahead of the curve. That doesn't mean that we aren't also all over the map. Some agencies are very much into the whole green concept, and with others it's basically not on their radar at all."

The upfront cost of green products and equipment sometimes is higher than regular materials. Whatever the cost, how much an agency in any locality pursues green ideas depends, on the attitudes of park managers, elected officials, and the public, Some park and recreation departments follow environmental policies established for all public agencies in their locality. The Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department in Charlotte, North Carolina, has guidelines for recycled products and other environmental stewardship practices, as does the county. …

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