On grass, city hall policies are mud

Climate Change is Good. The extra rain made the damage to grassy areas more obvious to those whose view is limited to what they can see through a city hall window.

There are many reasons for why the grass is in bad shape (rainy year or not), and just as many ways to “fix” the issue.

I cycled through Mooney’s Bay park earlier this year. A dragon boat festival was being set up. I watched a chick driving a huge black pickup truck drive over the gravel parking lot and then an additional 40′ over the grass to stop right up against the riot fence. Heavy packages? Naaah, she hopped down, strolled over to chat to someone, and minutes later drove away. Why couldn’t she have stopped on the gravel lot instead of the grass? Because we give them permission to do so. Stupid, unnecessary wear and tear on the grass and tree roots.

And it isn’t just volunteers at a festival. At the park up my street, with lots of curb side parking, lawn crews used to drive up over the curb and onto the lawn into the park to unload the mowers. This saved them moving the mower over 5′ of sidewalk. More stupid, unnecessary wear and tear on the grass and tree roots.

And those lengthy festivals that are tent cities, like Bluesfest. Tents smother the grass for three weeks at a go. A few seasons ago in Florida I saw a festival where all the food tents were in a row raised 18″ above the grass on a short scaffolding with metal decking, including the “boardwalk” along the customer side of the food fair. Air circulated under the deck and the grass was untrammelled. Here’s a portable stage to illustrate the idea:

Why doesn’t the NCC and City require festival organizers to rent staging like this for their tent cities? It would avoid stupid¬† unnecessary wear and tear on the grass and tree roots. ¬†Surely it isn’t because the festival would bear the scaffold cost and the taxpayer pays for the grass repairs?

At the Gatineau fireworks event a few years ago I saw interlocking panels that covered grassy areas, providing safe, accessible pathways to the viewing areas. Let’s start requiring grass protection. It isn’t just for smoking, anymore.

Here’s another system, from Washington DC. To protect the Mall grass at inauguration time, 50,000 panels 4’x4′ were rented from stadiums in other cities, and laid over 800,000 sq feet of Mall (that’s 18 acres, or 9 pro league baseball stadiums-worth).

The panels are translucent, which allows light to reach the grass so it stays healthy. A grid of ridges keeps the floor of the panel above the grass blades. Stadiums use these panels to cover the grass for other events, like concerts (and monster truck events?).

No word on whether crowd estimates are affected by having a white floor vs the prior decades of dark lawns.

Grass has a defined carry capacity. Overload it, with people, trucks, or tents and damage ensues. Add days of rain, and damage comes sooner. Houston, Ottawa, we have a problem.

Expecting heavy use throughout the year, this park in Toronto has … syngrass. Expensive to install on day 1, but the park is usable in all weathers and all seasons.

This Montreal soccer field is in use for pickup and league games and everything else from early morning until night, seven days a week, regardless of the weather. That’s getting the most out of scarce urban amenity space:

Don’t rush to knock it when our parks and schoolyards look like this:

This schoolyard / park has been resodded, reseeded, irrigated, unirrigated, closed for spring time thaw, closed for the whole summer … umpteen times over the past few decades. Definition of insanity, maybe? Hey folks, the problem isn’t too much rain, its expecting too much from grass as the universal default ground cover. It’s time to call the cops and stop this waste of money.

As for the city hall plaza … well, if you ask engineers for solutions you get engineering projects. Hammer, meet nail. If you ask policy wonks, you should get policy answers.


5 thoughts on “On grass, city hall policies are mud

  1. One silo of the city administration restricts the area covered by bricks and asphalt on urban and suburban lots (and rightly so), to limit rainwater run off into the storm sewer systems. Another silo of the same city’s administration recommends paving a large area in front of city hall, to save grass maintenance costs. Did anyone in the latter silo give even a passing thought to how much additional rainwater will enter an already under-designed storm sewer system?

  2. Can’t agree with you more. And the NCC (for heaven’s sake) allows its maintenance contractors to park their pick-up trucks and heavier vehicles on the grass of the parkways, while (contradiction!) they are maintaining the plants and grass. Or perhaps they do not even know about it.
    And I say nothing of Hydro and other ‘contractors’ doing infrastructure repair work. Yes, it is a culture of carelessness vis a vis our public property, not to mention taxpayer funded future repair and re-seeding. Too many silos as you imply.

  3. That soccer field in Montreal is micro-sized but it’s not only used by kids–all kinds of people morning to evening! I bet you could fit three of those into the space of a full-sized soccer field.

    1. It there is something wrong with “chicks” as a colourful term for women then someone should tell the Dixie Chicks, and anyone who has ever used the term chick flick. In my experience it’s only offensive when directed AT a woman, “Hey chick!”.

      And untrammelled (not confined, limited, or impeded) fits just fine, with either spelling.

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