Facing Colorado River shortage, 30 urban suppliers pledge to target decorative grasses
By Amy Weisz
The City of Denver has agreed to provide $11.8 million in funding over seven years to meet the growing demand for decorative grasses in Denver’s parks, golf courses and city streets.
It is the largest single round of funding to date for the growing popularity of non-native perennial decorative grasses and turf grasses. A total of 30 large and small urban suppliers are participating.
“This is the largest effort of its kind. Any way you look at it, there are more than 1 million city grasses,” said John Siegel, Denver Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services’ director. “This is a huge deal for Denver. It’s an extremely effective mechanism for improving the quality of these urban landscapes without spending an arm and a leg.”
As the city’s population grows, the demand for native grasses and the cost of those grasses are also growing. In 2005, Denver spent more than $27 million on decorative turf. That has more than doubled since then, and the need for non-native decorative grasses has increased too, as their value to public spaces is growing.
In the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, only three decorative turf suppliers are working, with the most recent project having done more than $23 million in purchases.
Siegel said most of the work is done by non-native species. Some of the non-native species are imported, but others are raised and maintained by the public.
“You go out and you get to know the plant and then you go out and you buy the plant,” Siegel said. “We’re talking about native species that are growing in the park, but also in the city and the state of Colorado, and we want to keep them in the city.”
The native grasses have been doing well in the park, Siegel said.
“I will tell you a couple of years ago, we started with one species, and it was such a success that we bought more than a hundred of those,” he said. “Then we started getting requests from cities, other municipalities, and that’s when we started to realize we had to be proactive, because this is a very