Friday, December 9, 2011

Turf Wars

One of the grandest features of the neighborhood I live in is a ~3 acre park, a vast swath of bright green that brings visual relief to what is sometimes a stark desert landscape.  On just about any day of the year it is warm enough to walk across the field barefoot, fly a kite, toss a football, or just lay down under a mesquite tree and take a nap. On a clear night, it's a great place to do a little stargazing. 

The park is actually a retention basin, a required element of any development around here, meant to help with flood control during monsoon season. It works: when the rain pours, the park becomes a lake. Not all retention basins are lined with turf. Our Homeowners Association has elected to maintain the lawn here, at considerable expense. In Phoenix, keeping a decent looking lawn is a fine art that requires not only an elaborate irrigation system, weekly mowing, and a lot of fertilizer, but also a twice a year conversion from heat tolerant Bermuda grass to cool season rye grass. For this park alone, which is the largest of 6 parks in the hood, we run an annual water bill of about $100,000. Most people think it's worth it.
However, some residents believe that the good green grass should only be admired and not played on. No golf, lest there be divets; no loose dogs, lest there be lawn sausage; and, good Lord!, no games, lest there be skid marks! Our HOA meetings have oft been dragged down by turf wars: endless arguments about who should be able to enjoy the field, and how to regulate the enjoyment thereof. Some advocate that security services be hired to run off any cleat bearing soccer players. Others would like to promote neighborhood ultimate frisbee tournaments. A few curmudgeons would like to see the whole dang thing covered with gravel to eliminate all the expense of turf management and wasteful use of water. 

Here is my vision: wouldn't it be cool if we all got together and made it into a cooperative farm?! We could probably produce enough fruits and vegetables to feed all ~5000 people that live in the neighborhood, AND provide fresh food to the elementary school across the street! We could even allow some chickens, add a fish pond or two, and we'd have the whole food pyramid! Probably a bit too forward thinking for this community, but, heck, it's a great back-up plan!

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