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Not happy with water saving grass

Some Del Webb residents pan fire station grass as weeds

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Not happy with water saving grass

The drought-resistant ficus grass at the fire station on Lathrop Road contrasts sharply with the manicured lawns on nearby Del Webb residents.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED May 8, 2014 1:57 a.m.

The grass isn’t always greener.

Some Del Webb at Woodbridge residents are taking exception to drought-resistant-landscaping at the new Lathrop Road fire station that they say is nothing but weeds.

Manteca Parks & Recreation Director Ken Fant points out it is actually three blends of ficus grass that tend to grow in clumps.

Bob Goodwin doesn’t consider ficus grass. He considers them weeds.

Goodwin chided the Manteca City Council Tuesday night for allowing “weeds” to grow at the new fire station while firefighters go around citing others for having weeds 6 inches or higher their property.

He provided the council with color photos that he contended show how shabby the city property looks compared to the well-manicured lawns of nearby Del Webb homes.

Michael Spence, who also resides in the Del Webb neighborhood, told the council they ignored the uniform landscaping document the city adopted in 2005 for the overall Union  Ranch development that includes Del Webb by allowing the fiscus grass.

Woodbridge residents are bound by separate restrictions enforced by the homeowners association within the Del Webb community that requires front yards to be maintained and look a certain way. Those rules are actively enforced by the association’s paid staff.

Fant noted similar ficus has been planted in city maintained areas in the Union Ranch East neighborhood immediately east of Woodbridge as well as at the transit station on Moffat Boulevard in downtown Manteca.

The ficus grass was used as it requires significantly less water and is therefore drought resistant. At the same time it meets another goal the city has after the Great Recession triggered significant cutbacks in parks staffing — new landscaping needs to require less work.

The ficus needs to be cut about 20 to 25 times a year as opposed to grass that needs virtually weekly attention. It also doesn’t require fertilizer. Ficus uses a minimum of 20 percent less water to maintain.

“It was important to find ways to reduce city workload when parks maintenance staff was cut by 60 percent,” Fant said.

He noted the landscaping at the fire station was keeping with the council’s directive.

Fant did say crews would soon “cut off” the top part of the ficus where seeds have formed. It is the yellow portion of the grass that looks like weeds to some. The rest of the blade from the ground up is green.

Fant noted the ficus at the fire station has grown faster than ficus elsewhere.

The bottom part of the ficus as it stood at the fire station on Wednesday is green.

Fant added that it poses a minimal fire hazard if any. Should the seed portion of the ficus catch on fire, he said the worst it would do is smolder smoke.

“I truly understand that some people do not like the looks of it,” Fant said.

Fant noted drought resistant landscaping that is more natural to the Central Valley is a “paradigm shift” for people who are used to strict lines and formality in landscaping.

Mayor Willie Weatherford after looking at the photos supplied by Goodwin noted the council did ask for more drought-resistant landscaping.

“This is a case of unintended consequences,” Weatherford said.

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