Creating Waterwise Park Strips

By Amanda Strack, Conservation Garden Park

As spring knocks at our door, our landscapes move to the center of our focus. When you look around your landscape and that odd patch of lawn near the road that is struggling to thrive catches your eye, recognize that area as an easy place to start making changes in your landscape. Also known as the park strip, this piece of your landscape is owned by the city but is your responsibility to maintain. And if it’s all lawn, maintain you will.

In this location, sun exposure is extreme, salt build-up can be enormous, and watering it correctly is difficult. Being surrounded by hardscape, this space gets hotter than many other places in the landscape. Because snow plows distribute salt in winter, the salt tolerance for plants in this area will be unique to the rest of your yard. Irrigation systems are generally not designed to water an area that is as small as the park strip. These conditions make growing lawn in the park strip a challenge. If you’re ready to make a change to your park strip landscape, knowing what to do is the best place to start.

Education

The first thing you need to know are the park strip ordinances specific to your city. Finding this information may vary depending on how your city designed their website, but it will go something like this:

  • Visit your city’s webpage
  • Select the “Departments” or “Government” link
  • Choose the “Planning Department” or “Planning and Zoning” page
  • Go to “Zoning Ordinance” or “Ordinances” portion
  • Find the chapter on “Landscape Standards” or “Residential Land Use”
  • Go to the page that deals with “Park strip Maintenance” and/or “Park strip Materials”

When I searched for this information on my city’s website, it was very easy to find, and they gave specific guidelines to follow. Here is an example: “Drip irrigation systems are highly encouraged, and landscaping should comply with Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance.” However, it may take some searching to locate this information and if it seems too daunting, just call your city and ask to speak with someone in the planning department.

If you live in an area where there is an HOA, contact the HOA and ask for their specific guidelines concerning the park strip. Some HOAs require overhead spray irrigation in the park strip. These are the things you need to know before you start making changes.

The second form of education you should seek is a class about transitioning your park strip from lawn to a waterwise park strip. There is a monthly “Creating Waterwise Park Strips” class held at Conservation Garden Park, and the next one is scheduled for Thursday, March 15th. This class will discuss how to remove existing lawn, how to retrofit existing irrigation, how to install paths in the park strip, and which plants are suitable for the park strip. Attending a class is an excellent way to get a jump start on your project and what it will require to be successful.

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