Facility Profile - April 2008
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Sprinkler Smarts

Challenger Park in Parker, Colo.

By Elisa Kronish

"Every landscape is typically over-watered because it's easier to do than under-water," Ash said. In fact, roots of playing fields need time to dry out to some extent to enable air to get into the soil and allow the roots to flourish. Of course, allowing a field to dry out too much isn't optimal, either.

"The turf can't be healthy with an over-watering or under-watering," Ash said. But it happens, because the alternative with a traditional controller is a lot of time spent manually adjusting clocks, turning them off when it rains and simply correcting human errors. With a smart system, these issues are practically eliminated. Plus, with wireless communication, adjustments can be made right from your desk. Klafka hasn't set up that element of the software yet, but said he plans to.

"Once you get that clock set up, you just walk away," Klafka explained. Whereas his other irrigation clocks need to be checked and "fiddled with" twice a week or so, the WeatherTRAK clock hasn't needed more than a couple of tweaks since it was installed. "It'll probably take three to four hours to program it to make it perfect, but once you do, you're done," he said.

Another benefit of optimum watering is the aesthetics and safety of the field. "That is one of the big things that I and even the irrigation techs that work with me noticed," Klafka remarked. Before the smart irrigation controller was installed, Klafka always had greener areas here and there, and less green areas in other spots. "Now, it's been plush," he said.

"The plant health is really something to play up," Ash noted. "Every park wants to look good and be playable."

Klafka hopes to add more smart controllers to take over the work that his now 30-plus clocks do throughout the county parks, but knows it's a huge financial undertaking—which includes a monthly subscription fee for the weather data and on-call field support—that will have to happen in stages. In the meantime, he said, his Challenger Park system is "worth its weight in gold because I don't have to mess with it."


Douglas County Parks: