New Berlin - A project to create a prairie around two subdivision stormwater retention ponds aims to reduce herbicide use and save money on mowing.
It's just too bad the effort has coincided with the drought.
"It's a hard year to establish a prairie," said Tom Slawski, who lives in the Park Central subdivision in the far east central part of the city and heads the project for the homeowners association.
The plantings from last fall and March of this year came up fine.
"Wonderful stuff was coming up," he said.
But then the drought struck.
"The drought turned a lot to french fries," he said.
Slawski, who works in environmental planning, said the homeowners association hopes to drastically reduce its annual mowing expense of about $1,200 to as little as $50, eventually. The association and the environment also would benefit from eliminating herbicide use.
The city gave the project a small amount of money to help it go forward.
"We looked on it as a pilot project," said Alderman Ken Harenda, chairman of the city's Water Resource Management Committee that recommended the small grant. "We could use it as an example to see if we want to push it in other parts of the city."
Such plantings might be appropriate for new developments or even old subdivisions where pond maintenance has slipped, Harenda said. Homeowners associations are responsible for stormwater pond maintenance, but the associations no longer exist in several older subdivisions.
What to do about those poorly maintained ponds is mainly a separate issue that the committee and council will take up soon, he said.
Although planting a prairie around the ponds survived two votes by the Park Central association, some residents there are not happy with the idea, Slawski acknowledged.
"It's not a cut lawn," he said. And some people just like to see a carpet of green grass to the water's edge.
"It's hard to overcome that," Slawski said.
But the majority of owners in the 31-lot subdivision felt the futility of mowing a large area that is useless, given that it's too small for a soccer or baseball field, he said.
Despite the struggles with the drought and the disappointing progress, the project has more support than it did at first, he said.
This fall, the situation will be reassessed, but Slawski predicted having to do more plantings because of plants lost to the drought.
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