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Academy can save green by eliminating grass
Gary Garcia smooths concrete on a median along Stadium Boulevard at the Air Force Academy Aug. 9, 2013. The 10th Civil Engineer Squadron is using the median as a test to determine the cost and savings of Xeriscaping instead of replacing strips of grass along the median every year. Garcia is an employee of Cosyleon and Cosyleon, a contractor based in Pueblo, Colo., that specializes in concrete placement. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
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Getting rid of grass could save some green

Posted 8/13/2013   Updated 8/13/2013 Email story   Print story


by Don Branum
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

8/13/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- In past years, Academy landscapers replace grass along the medians of Academy Drive, Stadium Boulevard and South Gate Boulevard a few weeks before graduation.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jim Smith wants to see that practice end. He's lobbied for years to have the Academy adopt a more efficient solution.

Smith began his campaign in August 2003, when Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr. was the Academy's superintendent. In an email to the Public Affairs office's action line, he wrote, in part: "I suggest a course of decorative crushed rock be placed in these areas, and move the sprinklers a few inches."

The changes, he said, would eliminate the need to replace sod every year.

"I do believe that an investigation is warranted and it would be cost-effective over a period of time to implement," he wrote.

He emailed the Academy Spirit Aug. 2, again suggesting a change to the process.

"Every time I enter the Academy, my blood boils as nothing is done to correct the problem," he said. "If I was still in the Air Force, I would have submitted a Form 1000." The Air Force Form 1000 is used to submit ideas to the Innovative Development Through Employee Awareness program, which offers bounties for ideas that save the Air Force money.

We passed Smith's suggestion, along with a request for more information, along to Keith Butala, the Academy's deputy civil engineer.

Turns out Smith may soon get his wish. Butala said the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron has begun to Xeriscape a median on Stadium Boulevard between Parade Loop and Academy Drive.

"It's a small section we are using as a test to determine the feasibility for all our medians," Butala explained. "If it is successful, we will pursue the remaining sections of Stadium Boulevard medians, probably as an Energy Conservation Investment Program water conservation project."

The project involves replacing the grass next to the curb -- which typically dies in the winter from snow removal efforts -- with a mixture of concrete and cobble, along with installing new, efficient sprinkler heads to water the remaining turf.

"Our goal is to reduce the amount of grass significantly, which will reduce sustainment costs" such as irrigation, sod replacement and mowing, Butala said. "This change will keep most, if not all, of the water off the roads and significantly reduce the amount of water needed. We are confident our test section to reduce the amount of grass in the medians will be effective."

The Academy also cut back on replacing sod this year by more than 70 percent, saving the Academy more than $34,000, Butala said. Workers have also recently replaced grass with rock along parking islands near Harmon Hall and the commissary as well as the area near the B-52 Stratofortress static display.

While the Academy uses reclaimed, non-potable water for most of its watering, Butala said, "Water is water, and it is still our responsibility to use it wisely."

Smith said he appreciated the information that Butala provided and will keep an eye on the medians.

"We'll see if they follow through," he said. "If not, I'll be in touch."

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