- Parks & Recreation
- Parks, Trails, Open Space, and Forestry
- Open Space
- Mitigation Strategies and Maintenance
Mitigation Strategies and Maintenance
Open Space is defined as: Protected lands of significant value include those that are conserved in their natural state, restored, or improved, with appropriate native landscaping, to retain a natural or natural appearing condition, or to conserve quality agriculture.
In addition to parks, recreation, and trails, open space should be seen as a means to help direct growth, maintain rural character, and provide opportunities for education, wildlife protection and observation, hiking, and other passive and recreation activities for existing and future Erie residents. As such, our Parks Division has several strategies in place to maintain and protect the integrity of our open space and natural resource areas.
Know Your Property Line
The Park & Recreation Department seeks to be a good neighbor to adjacent property owners and at the same time protect Town-owned and maintained properties from encroachment. Procedures are in place to guard against encroachment, and per the Town of Erie Municipal Code 7-6-5 the following are prohibited from occurring beyond your property line:
Access: It is not permitted to access your property through Town open space property. Creating walkways beyond your fence line or removing Town fencing along the landscaping is prohibited.
Dumping: Discarding grass clippings, sod, soil, yard waste, trash, debris, landscape materials, and dog waste over your backyard fence is harmful to the open space. This also includes general trash and debris accumulation.
Extended Landscaping: Irrigation, planting, gardening, residential mowing, dog houses, timber walls, and structural supports for private property improvements located are to be contained within your backyard.
Motor Vehicle Operation: The operation of any motorized vehicle or equipment such as trucks, electric/gas scooters, and skid steers on or through parks and open space property is not allowed.
Recreation: Recreational items such as playgrounds, trampolines, horseshoe pits, treehouses, rope swings, and bird feeders.
Storage: Personal items such as landscape materials, lawnmowers, wood, and utility trailers, including structures (sheds, fences, raised garden beds, weather stations) are to be stored solely on private property.
Procedures Against Encroachment
- Department staff routinely survey adjacent properties and investigate resident complaints to identify any encroachments onto Town-owned and maintained properties.
- Department staff will document encroachment issues including date identified, adjacent property address, nature of encroachment, mitigation actions necessary, and photo-document the encroachment.
- For minor encroachments, the Parks & Open Space Division Manager, or their designee, will notify the property owner of the encroachment violation by mail. Notification will include description of the encroachment violation, mitigation actions that need to be taken, and date that encroachment needs to be mitigated (14 days). The procedure for major encroachments will be implemented if the property owner does not mitigate the violation within the allotted deadline.
- For major encroachments, the Parks & Open Space Division Manager, or designee, will contact and forward the encroachment violation to the Code Enforcement Officer to make contact with the property owner and oversee the mitigation of the encroachment violation. Information to be provided to the Code Enforcement Officer will include the date identified, adjacent property address, nature of encroachment, mitigation actions necessary, and photo-documentation of the encroachment. Department staff will provide technical assistance to the Code Enforcement Officer upon request.
- All minor and major encroachments issues and will be filed for future reference.
We recognize the warm weather and drier-than-usual conditions and have heard your concerns regarding our Town-maintained open space and the potential for wildfires in urban landscapes. The Parks & Recreation Department utilizes nationally recognized best management practices that include several mowing techniques and strategies for open space land based on its proximity to adjacent properties and trail corridors, desirable and non-desirable plant composition and diversity, slope, terrain, and wildlife habitat, etc. These techniques and strategies include no mow, entirely mow, and partially mow zones with frequencies ranging from never to multiple times per year dependent on the individual characteristics of the property.
The health of the resource and public safety are key goals of developing management strategies for individual properties.
Tall grasses are a fire hazard. They need mowed to prevent a fire.
- Mowing tall grasses does not remove the fire fuel load. Cut grasses are concentrated on the ground and will dry quickly which may result in a hotter fire.
- Tall, actively growing grasses act as “water reservoirs" and stay greener longer through the growing season compared to mowed areas. These actively growing grasses provide a level of defense against a stronger-intensity wildfire.
- Healthy native grasses help to out-compete cheat grass and other invasive winter annual grasses that are known to achieve monoculture and create altered and extremely dangerous wildland fire regimes.
- There are more than 900 acres of native grass within the Town's open space portfolio; repeatedly mowing entire open space areas is not a realistic or effective tactic for fire prevention.
- However, the Town does mow a curtesy strip behind fences and homes that back to Town maintained open space areas, as well as along Town maintained trails. Fence line mowing prevents weed growth and provides some level of fire protection, while trailside mowing provides an excellent fire break. Fence lines are mowed at least twice a growing season, and trail edges are mowed monthly from May through October. Town staff plan to begin fence line mowing operations on Monday, April 25, 2022. This will take approximately two weeks to complete
- Staff regularly assess all Town-maintained trees for risk that are in close proximity to adjacent properties, structures, and trail corridors and will mitigate any risks. Standing dead trees will be left standing in natural areas that are far away from adjacent properties, structures, and trail corridors. These provide a wealth of resources and habitat for wildlife.
What YOU as a Homeowner Can Do
If you are concerned about the potential for damage to your property, your best defense is to maintain your lawn. If there are trees or shrubs adjacent to the natural area and close to structures, you might consider removing them utilizing a licensed arborist. Removing brush build-up in and around your yard reduces fuel for wildfire spread. When landscaping, maintain a distance between plantings and structures, especially trees.
Another local resource to learn about fire mitigation at home is Wildfire Partners. This program is intended for mountain communities, but the advice and strategies for retrofitting your home to mitigate fire dangers can be just as relevant in our urban areas. You can view a photo gallery and explanation of possible projects you can do at your home for greater fire protection.
Also set yourself and your family up to receive emergency notifications. View the Town's Emergency Preparedness page for more details on how to sign up for alerts and other ways to be prepared.
The Town of Erie utilizes nationally recognized best management practices for natural areas and open space land management, which include several strategies and mowing techniques. These strategies vary based on many factors, some of which include: the proximity to adjacent properties and trail corridors, the composition and diversity of desirable and non-desirable vegetation, local terrain features, seasonal factors including the quantity and timing of natural moisture, as well as potential wildlife habitats and corridors.
One of these land management techniques is the mowing of native grass areas. Several types of mowing strategies exist including: employing specific no mow areas, the infrequent mowing of a site in its entirety, and partially mowing targeted areas within a larger site. Mowing frequencies can range from zero times to upwards of 5 times per year dependent on the individual characteristics of the property in a given year. All mowing actions will be evaluated by Town staff on a site-by-site basis and may be influenced by weather conditions and the health of the native vegetation. Even areas deemed "no mow" may need infrequent maintenance mowing to achieve land management and weed control goals based on conditions on the ground.
Open Space maintained by the Town of Erie are places of special interest and have uses that are different from neighborhood park settings. These areas are much more passive and accommodate low impact uses. Natural areas are managed to maintain and strengthen native grass species, with the primary goal being the health of native vegetation, which, in turn, helps to reduce the occurrence of weeds. The focus is on enriching habitats through improved cover of native species and control of noxious weeds.
Benefits of reduced mowing in natural areas
- Native grasses regenerate naturally by propagating their own seed.
- Native grasses support wildlife by providing food and cover.
- Native grasses help promote the return of other native plant and animal species.
- Native grasses improve air quality through reduced spent-fuel emissions.
- Native grasses help filter storm water run-off and prevent soil erosion.
- With no fertilizers required, there is less chemical impact on the environment.
- When allowed to grow to a natural height, native grasses reduce non-native weed growth.
- Reduced-mowing extends the life of equipment used in these areas, reduces demand for fuel usage and allows the allocation of staff hours to be used for needed maintenance tasks that would otherwise be spent on mowing.