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Archive for the ‘Parks’ Category

In days of tight municipal budgets, all costs have to be scrutinized. The job of Parks and Rec departments across the country includes the maintenance of large expanses of lawn. This practice has long been questioned by the ecologically minded (couldn’t there be a greater mix of cover types?). For the past few years, mowing has been reduced in many places, often to a chorus of complaints, but water provision is also a consideration. For example, news from Helena, Montana (pop. ~30K) about the new Centennial Park, a traditional active rec park, being built in 3 phases on 60 acres (first phase construction began last summer):

The budget also increases water funds for the city’s parks. Of about $80,000, Centennial Park is expected to receive about $60,000 worth of water. The city  is looking to lay sod and start planting in the park soon, and Alles said he  thinks the park may be open for use by the end of the summer.

Looks like it is time to dust off the xeriscaping manuals. Public education about alternatives to lawn, and design to make the alternatives beautiful, will have to accompany changes to park planting and maintenance if ecologically beneficial changes are to take root. Otherwise, when (and if) city coffers are filled again, the default mowing and watering will make a return.

Update: A new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology further supports the idea of lawn conversion in city parks.

The study recommends planting more trees on lands currently maintained as lawns. Doing this on just 10% of lawn space would increase [citywide] carbon storage by 12%. (from Treehugger.com)

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Parks Under Seige

From today’s New York Times, a story on the sad condition of state parks – drastically cut budgets, growing dependence on entrance fees and “marketing,” shrinking staff, maintenance backlogs, and more.

On proposed shale gas drilling in Ohio parks:

“I don’t want to see the parks become refineries or anything like that,” said Paul Wolf, president of Friends for the Preservation of Ohio State Parks. “But it’s a tough decision to make. If parks deteriorate, what good is keeping drilling out of the parks?”

And from the immediate past president of the National Association of Recreation Resource Planners:

But, Mr. Just said, a basic pact between parks and the public — the idea that parks will be easily accessible and affordable, and safeguarded by the state — is at risk. He recalled a new board member of the association asking, “In what way are they state parks anymore?”

What would those 19th and early 20th century visionaries think of our stewardship efforts? And guess what we did during the only prior economic crisis of the magnitude of the current one (i.e., during the Great Depression). We built parks – many hundreds of them – with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Shame on the Feds for allowing the states to gut the parks now.

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