- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) - A new ordinance in Bellevue is being proposed to allow certain types of native grasses, up to a foot long, in areas including steep embankments, medians, rarely used park land and empty backyards.

The Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1IwWnpQ ) reports the current ordinance labels native grasses as a “public nuisance” that should be cut as close to the ground as possible. Residents will be able to comment on the proposed policy during an April 27 council meeting.

Councilman Don Priester says the proposal will save taxpayers money and also reduce mower use and pollution. Public works director Jeff Roberts says the new ordinance will give residents and the city another alternative for areas that are difficult to maintain.

Lincoln Parks and Recreation implemented a similar plan in 2011 because of budget constraints.

Lincoln Parks Director Lynn Johnson says the average cost of maintaining an acre of parkland is about $500 to $800 a year. Maintaining an acre of just long grass, which generally only requires mowing, costs $25 a year. Long grass areas are mowed only twice per season instead of the usual 16-17 times per year. Johnson says the program has saved Lincoln Parks and Recreation $265,000 a year.

Some residents are not happy with the proposed ordinance, saying long grass will look unkempt. One resident called the proposal “one step above an abandonment plan for a park.”

“We are getting kickback,” Roberts said. “Residents think it is going to be mandated to plant long grass in double frontage lots - that’s not the case.”

Roberts says the plan is unlikely to be implemented for three to five years since the plants need time to grow.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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