Conservation mowing, or mowing reduction, aligns with numerous actions identified in the Landscape, Natural Resources, and Agriculture sector of the Climate Action Plan including reduction in carbon emissions associated with landscaping equipment and improvements in soil health, wildlife habitats, and stormwater runoff. Co-benefits include staff safety and noise reduction. ACES adopted a SMART goal for conservation mowing stating:
Reduce area of mowed, non-athletic, field grassy areas by 15% by year 2024, and further reduce mowed grass by an additional 5% each year thereafter. Prioritize areas with steep slopes and other unused grassy areas. Areas identified for mowing reduction will be converted to forests, managed meadows, or un-mowed grass. Un-mowed grasses shall be mowed once annually in early spring.
Using GIS to conduct an aerial survey of land cover types of ACPS’ 760 acres of land, it was found that 25% or approximately 190 acres were mowed grass. The full breakdown of land use can be seen in the pie chart below. Conservation mowing began in summer of 2023 prioritizing steep slopes and unused mowed areas. Signage will be used to educate students, staff, and the public on the benefits of this intentional reduction in mowing and to help reframe the narrative on how sustainable open space can look. Prominent areas of un-mowed grass, such as in front of schools, or along highway frontage will be supplemented with wildflowers for beautification. Mowed strips will remain around all paths, sidewalks, parking, playgrounds, etc. Mowing and/or bush hogging will be conducted in early-spring after insects overwintering in grass stems have emerged.
The future of conservation mowing at ACPS will be an iterative process of continual improvement. Staff will be busy determining where conservation mowing is and isn't maintaining the balance between environmental stewardship and school operations needs, identifying areas for future expansion of the program and beautifying these unmown areas by adding biodiversity through the use of wild flowers and pollinator friendly plants.