Long grass along drainage channel
The Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department will add more acres to its long grass maintenance program during the upcoming growing season — an effort that saves money and has environmental benefits. At the same time, the Lincoln Parks Foundation is launching a new mini-grant program to encourage more community groups to volunteer to take on landscape maintenance and other improvements in neighborhood parks and along trails.
Long grass areas are mowed one to three times per year, compared to about 14 times per year for active areas. They include areas of fescue which are allowed to grow seed heads and areas of "Prairie in the Parks," which have been seeded to native grasses. Parks began using long grass maintenance in low-use areas in 2004. Last year, about, 685 acres in 35 parks were managed as long grass. An additional 166 acres in 29 parks will be added to long grass management this year, and an additional eight acres will be seeded to native grasses. Maps of the areas can be found at parks.lincoln.ne.gov.
To reduce costs, Parks and Recreation has combined long grass maintenance with the use of larger mowers and an extension of the time between regular mowing. Director Lynn Johnson said those efforts have resulted in a reduction in mowing hours of about 22 percent.
"Long grass maintenance has become an important money-saving tool across the country," Johnson said. "This alternative practices saves on labor and equipment costs and allows us to focus our maintenance on the actively used parkland. The reaction of residents has been mixed. Some are concerned the areas appear untidy, while others say they enjoying seeing the seed heads as well as more butterflies and birds."
Parks manages about 6,000 acres of parkland at 127 locations. About half is conservation areas such as Wilderness Park, prairie land and saline wetland areas. The other half is neighborhood, community and regional parks as well as golf courses. This year, about 1,540 acres will continue to be mowed on an average 14-day rotation.
Buffer areas along drainage channels and around lakes are managed as long grass to help stabilize channel banks and protect water quality. Assistant Director of Parks Operations Jerry Shorney said, "There is a direct relationship between the length of grass stems and rooting. Longer grass stems means deeper roots, and that increases the ability to stabilize the soil along the channel banks."
The new mini-grants will be available to neighborhood associations, businesses, civic groups, youth groups, running clubs, and any other groups or individual who participates in the "Adopt a Landscape" program will be eligible to apply for mini-grants. Grants funds may be used to enhance existing neighborhood parks and trails and to purchase tools and equipment to assist with landscape maintenance activities or park improvement projects.
Interested applicants may submit a grant application to the Lincoln Parks Foundation any time between April 1 and May 13. Successful applicants will be notified around June 1, and projects must be complete by the end of 2011. Applications and additional information are available from the Lincoln Parks Foundation at 402-441-8258.