City Hall–Gone to Seed?

Last November, I wholeheartedly praised the community effort to convert the turf area around City Hall to a low water landscape. See New Landscape at City Hall–post mortem thoughts 

Without a doubt, it was a major capital improvement carried out by volunteer groups working closely with the City of Petaluma.

But I also cautioned:

…the euphoria and enthusiasm (which I share) generated by the event must be tempered with the realization that the work is not done.  We are starting our third year with a “transformed” sheet mulched (residential) landscape and have no regrets.  Nevertheless, it does require monitoring, weeding and some pruning. From time to time, plants die and have to be replaced.

Going forward, the new City Hall landscape will demand the same attention, albeit on a scale larger than a residential yard. While turf maintenance and turf water demands have been eliminated, there will be maintenance of a different kind requiring different knowledge– and yes, the new landscape will require some water.

It was not clear to me who was going to oversee the maintenance of the new landscape.  At the time I thought it might be a volunteer group, but I later learned that maintenance was to be the responsibility of the City of Petaluma.

To get to the point quickly–The project succeeded. The maintenance has not. In fact, to date, it has been nonexistent…

They may have eliminated the need and expense of lawn maintenance, but the new landscape, while it does not need lawn mowers and chemical sprayers, requires maintenance skill sets of a different kind. 

In short, it needs the regular supervision and maintenance by someone who knows how to care for a variety of plantings and who knows…

  • When to irrigate and in what amounts
  • When to prune
  • What to prune
  • When to harvest the vegetables
  • When to replenish the mulch layers
  • When to replace the dead plants

On March 17, 2010 I toured the new City Hall landscape with camera to document the current state of the landscape since its completion in October 2009. It was not a pretty sight. For a complete photo album, see City Hall Landscaping…A Neglected Project?

Normally I like to offer suggestions, but in this case I am not able to do so. I seriously doubt there are any funds in the City budget to secure this service.  That leaves volunteers as an alternative.  But I really think it is unfair, not to mention unrealistic, to expect volunteers with the required skills to take on the regular management of a landscape of this size.

In the meantime, the weeds continue to spread.