Lawn Care

Q

It's another drought year in this already desert environment. Why does the
nation's premier weather and climate research facility still have large
lawn areas that require additional irrigation beyond what nature provides?
And then, to add insult to injury, these lawns require routine manicures
throughout the growing season with terribly polluting and noisy equipment.
The xeriscaped area in front of FL2 is quite nice. Could that be expanded
to displace more (if not all) of the lawn areas? If the lawns were
sufficiently small, a push mower could handle the job. Shouldn't UCAR be
setting a better example for Boulder and the rest of the Front Range?
Beyond lawn care, shouldn't we also insist that other groundskeeping be
done without leaf blowers and their icky ilk?

Answered on June 27, 2002

A

Most of the landscaping at the Foothills Lab complex, with the exception of
the xeriscaped portion in front of FL2, came with the purchase of the
property. Although we are allowed some leeway in the design and layout of
our landscaping, much of what you see at Foothills Lab was the result of
the land use regulations adopted by the City and County of Boulder that
were in force at the time of the original construction. The current
regulations have been revised to address water conservation and the use of
xeriscaping, but any plans to modify our landscaping would need to be
reviewed and approved by the city‚s planning board. Planning efforts,
currently on hold, for an additional building at the Foothills site do
include modifying much of the landscape to meet current requirements. While
xeriscaping is a fine alternative to lawns, it does require extensive
maintenance to keep it looking presentable.

UCAR is currently limiting our irrigation of the Foothills landscaping to
meet the City of Boulder mandatory water restrictions that went into effect
on June 5, 2002. In addition, we have instructed our lawn service
contractor to keep our lawns as tall as possible to minimize evaporation.

Air-polluting, two-cycle gasoline engines typically powered older lawn care
equipment. The larger equipment used by our contractors and UCAR‚s
Maintenance Department is powered by four-cycle engines to meet the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's clean air specifications.

The criticism of leaf blowers largely results from the fact that they are
powered by two-cycle engines. The labor savings that is realized by the use
of leaf blowers is certain to ensure their continued use by contractors and
maintenance departments. However, the tool industry is responding to the
public‚s concerns by producing versions of leaf blowers that will meet
tough new EPA emission regulations that take effect this year. Physical
Plant Services will be replacing its leaf blowers with the compliant models
as soon as they become available.

-John Pereira, Director, Physical Plant Services