From the football field at Highlander Stadium to the backyard on “The Brady Bunch,” artificial turf has served a variety of purposes over the years. And if you live in Highland Park, it could be coming soon to a front lawn near you.
The town’s public works commission this week discussed a proposal to allow residents to install synthetic turf in their front yards, something that’s currently prohibited. The town does allow turf in backyards and side yards, where it generally can’t be seen from streets or sidewalks, but regulates against it in front yards.
The idea was prompted by the town’s efforts to conserve water, and the decreased need to water turf as opposed to grass (although it still requires minimal watering for cleaning purposes and to prevent overheating). Officials said it could potentially save up to 45 gallons per square foot of replaced grass.
There’s also a cost savings for homeowners in terms of maintenance, it eliminates the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and it gives lawns a consistent appearance year-round.
“Some people already want to do it, but can’t because of our restrictions,” said HP Mayor Joel Williams. “I think the economics are going to be compelling, especially for water use.”
However, town council member Margo Goodwin expressed concern about the unnatural appearance of a green lawn in the winter, and said the synthetic lawns could detract from the natural beauty throughout the town.
“Aesthetically, it would be a huge impact for those people who don’t have it,” said town council member Margo Goodwin. “It would look strange if my neighbor did this and I did not.”
Artificial lawns are common in other parts of the country, such as California and Arizona, but are not seen as much around here. Most neighboring municipalities don’t have any restrictions on the books.
HP has experimented with synthetic turf on small portions of a median, but nothing the size of the average front lawn. Goodwin suggested the town become a guinea pig in a more conspicuous area, such as a park.
The key, of course, is conserving water without sacrificing the beautifully manicured lawns that are a longstanding tradition in HP.
“I think this is the wave of the future,” Williams said. “We’ve got to find a way to reduce water use and find a way for people to retain beautiful yards. This is an option.”
For now, the proposed regulations will be studied further before anything is sent to the Town Council for a vote.