Will Mammoth (finally!) rethink landscaping after drought kills off the sod strips along Main and Old Mammoth?
The brown grass lining Main Street and Old Mammoth Road will eventually become a thing of the past, but nobody’s sure when, and some say it should never have been installed in the first place.
“If they [Mammoth Town planners] would have ever listened to me to begin with it would have never been grass,” said Jenny Bouwman, owner of Mammoth Lakes Nursery. She says she submitted ideas to the Town of Mammoth Lakes over twenty years ago, when it was trying to decide how to landscape the medians.
“I had [envisioned] it full of penstemon, columbine, wildflowers,” said Bouwman, who said her idea would have “something growing all summer long” along the medians. “It would have needed very little water, and only needed to be cut back once a year.” She wanted to incorporate some elements of hardscaping, like tile, she said, and even some benches.
Bouwman wasn’t sure when exactly the Town decided to go with grass instead, but thinks it was in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s.
“I don’t know if anybody [here now] would know that,” Recreation Manager Stuart Brown told The Sheet.
After the State of California imposed emergency prohibitions on watering ornamental grass medians on April 1, 2015, the death knell for Mammoth’s grass had been rung. The restrictions went into effect in June of that year.
Manny Bravo, of Bravo Gardens, is the contractor who maintains the medians on Highway 203 (also known as Main Street). The Sheet spoke to one of his employees, Eliseo Garcia, on Thursday, August 25 as he and his coworkers moved along Main Street, raking up pine needles, pulling weeds and picking up litter. Garcia said that they used to work on Main Street about once a week, but now it’s more like twice a month. “They left the grass to die” because of the water restrictions, Garcia said, so there’s really not that much they can do other than try to keep it looking clean.
Bravo Gardens has a contract for $32,100 for summer maintenance of the grass medians, Sierra Shultz, Engineering Assistant for the Department of Public Works, told The Sheet. However, she noted, Bravo Gardens has only charged the Town for about half of that as of press time.
The water to the sprinklers on the medians was cut this year, when it became obvious that California would not reinstate watering (the State Water Board adopted another emergency regulation on May 18 of this year, according to George Kostyrko, Director of Public Affairs for the State Water Resources Control Board). Therefore, “There’s not a lot of landscaping happening,” Shultz said. Instead, the landscapers “clean all the cinders, pick up all the trash, and tried to get [the medians] ready for summer.” In normal years, they’d also flush the sprinkler systems of water before winter hits, but there was never any water in them to begin with.