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Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department Working To Minimize Water Use

Last updated on Saturday, August 11, 2012

(BLOOMINGTON) - The City Parks and Recreation Department is taking aggressive measures to conserve water while mitigating the effects of the prolonged drought on city trees, landscaping, and sports turf.

According to Operations and Development Director Dave Williams, ornamental fountains like the one in The Waldron, Hill and Buskirk Park, and "Bloomington Waters" outside City Hall, were shut down weeks ago. The waterfall at Miller-Showers Park, and the irrigation system there, will continue to operate since the water comes directly from the park's storm water retention ponds. Aiming sprinklers directly back into the ponds helps control algae that clogs the water pumps and prevents them from operating properly.

The Parks and Recreation Department also plans to keep perennial and annual landscape plantings alive through the use of "harvested" water from Griffy Lake applied from water tanker trucks. Plans are also in place to use water from Bryan Park and Mills Pools, once the pools are closed and the water has de-chlorinated, to water trees and plants in city parks.

Staff is especially dedicated to keeping recently planted trees alive through the current dry spell. The newly completed median on West Third Street, which includes dozens of trees donated by Solution Tree, will continue to be irrigated regularly in hopes that the trees planted earlier this spring will make it through the coming dry weeks.

"We would not water trees at all during a typical year," said Mick Renneisen, administrator of the Parks and Recreation Department. "We have to water newly planted trees this year to try and keep them alive. We already anticipate that we will lose 25 percent of the trees we've planted during the last five years, as a result of the stress caused by drought conditions." The department typically plants between 200-400 trees annually.

Renneisen added that the urban forestry staff promoted what they called a "bucket brigade" in several areas where street trees were planted in 2011 and early 2012. When a tree was planted on city property in front of a home, the homeowner received a black, five-gallon bucket imprinted with instructions for watering "their" new tree. The Department also began using slow-release tree watering bags last summer. Each green plastic bag wraps around the trunk of a new tree, and holds about 20 gallons of water. Small holes in the bottom of the bag slowly drip water throughout a week, and provide a consistent source of water for young trees. The Parks and Recreation Department has about 150 of the bags currently in use.

Cascades Golf Course has been conserving water for several weeks. According to golf facilities manager Aaron Craig, the fairways, which are a mixture of bluegrass and rye, have gone dormant. "The fairways look a little like most yards," Craig said. "The grass is not necessarily dead, though. It's kind of in a coma."

Craig added that limited watering of the tee boxes and greens takes place between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. when evaporation rates, and water demand, are at their lowest. In all, Cascades Golf Course has reduced its overall water usage by 30 to 40 percent.

Sports fields, like those at Olcott Park, Winslow Sports Complex and Twin Lakes Sports Park, are exempt from water use restrictions and will continue to be watered as sparingly as possible in order to provide a safe playing surface for sports teams. Watering will continue to occur between midnight and 6 a.m. to minimize impact on peak demand times.

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