Grass isn’t always greener

We need to learn to live with a brown yard

It’s still not officially summer, yet the long grass in Upper Park and the rolling buttes southeast of Chico is already turning brown. While that’s just one visual indication of the early spring our region has experienced amid California’s ongoing drought, it’s also a reminder that, without intervention—i.e., watering—our lawns here in town would quickly be drying up, too.

It’s time that we let them. Everyone loves green grass, and we understand that many homeowners have made investments in landscaping they’d prefer not to waste. But in these dry times—with a nearly nonexistent snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, depleted reservoirs, area farmers fearing for their livelihoods and Gov. Jerry Brown ordering a statewide, 25 percent cutback in urban water use—it’s hard to justify using water to maintain aesthetics.

That’s why we applaud local homeowners like Gene Anna and O.J. McMillan, who live adjacent to Lower Bidwell Park on Vallombrosa Avenue and are featured in this week’s Greenways section (see “For the birds” by Ken Smith, page 18). Last year, the couple stopped watering their lawn and then removed it entirely to make way for a drought-resistant garden that serves as a natural extension of the park, attracts pollinators and, of course, conserves water they would have used to keep their grass green.

The McMillans’ overhauled front yard was certified by Altacal Audubon Society’s new Certified Neighborhood Habitat program, which is at the forefront of the local movement to replace lawns with more sustainable options. This program offers an entry point for locals who want to take action and we urge people to follow their lead. At the very least, we should all take a hard look at the grass on our side of the fence.