These sites are being selected because they meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Areas within parks that are difficult to maintain due to the seasonal presence of stormwater. These are areas that stay wet long enough to hinder maintenance and/or the growth of turf grass. Examples are detention basins, swales and ditches.
- Locations where native plants would offer an ecological benefit of absorbing and filtering stormwater before it enters the citywide storm sewer system. These include areas adjacent to waterways and ponds, detention basins, and areas around inlets and swales that are tied into the sewer system.
- Areas with environmental conditions that make them unable to grow turf grass.
Converting turf to meadow brings environmental benefits for local rivers and streams, wildlife and soil. Native plants are better adapted to the local climate and have deeper, more extensive root systems than turf grass. Because of their extensive roots, native species absorb and filter stormwater, removing pollutants before the water enters the rivers and streams. These visually attractive plant communities also offer a variety of species that provide food and habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Additionally, long-term maintenance of a meadow with native plants will save both labor and material costs, requiring only occasional mowing and controlled burning, less watering and no fertilizing. Environmental benefits of less frequent mowing include energy savings and reduced pollution from gasoline.
The project will begin with clearing of existing turf and invasive plants in the area.Once seedlings sprout, low plants and grasses will lightly cover the area during the first growing season. The native plants gradually will fill in during the second and third years, with blooming flowers and a variety of grasses. See the “after” photo for an example.
The areas of the park that remain landscaped with turf can continue to be used for a variety of active and passive recreation. Park meadow areas can be used for passive recreation, for example, children enjoy exploring natural areas and can watch insects and butterflies pollinate the flowers and learn how the plants change through the seasons. Children who do not participate in sports and those with special needs may especially appreciate interacting with nature in the park.
This project promotes natural resource management, which is part of environmental stewardship, one of the Park District’s Core Values. The project also addresses one of the goals of the District’s 2018-2020 Strategic Plan, to “develop a long-term land management plan that is aligned with changing design and maintenance practices.” Additionally, the District’s Master Plan mentions converting turf to natural prairie on page 23 under Environmental Stewardship. Considering that natural areas with native plants help protect a healthy environment, this project advances the District’s mission to promote a healthy community.