Supplement Feature - April 2008
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Trends in Park Landscaping

By Sue Marquette Poremba

s many parts of the country are experiencing droughts or water shortages, park landscapers are searching for new ideas on how to create attractive recreation areas while minimizing irrigation needs.

"Drought is a serious issue, and not going away any time soon," said Dominick Casey, superintendent of parks for the city of Henderson, Nev. "When it comes to a choice between drinking water and water for plants, I don't think it's a very tough choice."

Henderson and much of Nevada have been under drought conditions for the past five years, and as Lake Mead continues to drop, the situation continues to worsen.

"We're using less turf now and more xeriscaping," Casey explained. Xeriscaping is landscaping that requires little to no irrigation and is becoming more popular in areas where the lack of water is an issue. This type of landscaping makes use of native plants and landscaping schemes that minimize water runoff.

In conjunction with the drought, Henderson's park acreage nearly tripled since 2005. "We went from 691 acres to 1,100 acres," Casey said.

Turf is now used in Henderson only where it's functional, where people have picnics or passive play, and obviously for park athletic fields. In places like along parking lots or on streetscapes where it is just aesthetics, turf has gone away. A committee was put together to investigate every park area to judge the turf's functionality.

"If you could even lay a blanket down, it was considered functional," Casey said. "But if the only time someone stepped a foot on it was to maintain it, then it was unfunctional. It was there for pure aesthetics and deemed wasteful."

Also, as building and community growth slow down, so does the town's economy. "We have to do more with less," Casey explained. "We're trying to be more efficient with what we have." Which is why the town decided to go with the xeriscape approach.