Can You Get Your Community to Act? Town of Erie Example

| Advocacy, Colorado Native Plants, Native Landscape Planning & Design, Turf Conversion

By Tom Swihart

An important goal for the Front Range Chapter of Wild Ones is for members to move their own yard toward native landscaping – and then move their neighbors in the same direction. The example you set can show your neighbors and friends how native landscaping is both possible and desirable. Upgrading yards, even one at a time, is very worthwhile.

However, transforming one neighbor’s yard at a time is cumbersome and likely very slow. Operating yard-by-yard doesn’t touch on the huge amount of non-native landscaping in our communities. For example, public properties are untouched if all we address are residences. Same for commercial properties, and churches, which often have enormous swaths of non-native plantings. And the new residences being built at a torrid pace across the Front Range will continue to be landscaped the old-fashioned way, with non-native plantings that likely will be around for many years.

We shouldn’t neglect, therefore, the overwhelming influence that local governments have on landscaping choices. They can decide to emphasize Colorado native plants on their own properties. They can fund landscape makeovers. On the broadest scale, local development codes specify how builders are to landscape new properties for both commercial and residential spaces. That can set the landscape pattern for many decades after building permits are issued.

Along these lines, the Town of Erie made some good policy changes last year. Three Town Advisory Committees (Tree Board, Open Space and Trails, and Sustainability) jointly adopted a resolution requesting the Town to adopt policies promoting native landscaping and low-irrigation practices. That request included a set of implementation ideas. In response, the Town adopted a resolution directing Town staff to develop a range of policies in those very directions. Next, the Town asked the Advisory Boards to amplify on their first set of general recommendations and provide specific implementation ideas. Again, the Advisory Boards provided those ideas. 

Town staff is still developing budget and program alternatives for implementation. Making policy changes is a lengthy process but at least the Town of Erie has adopted a supportive resolution and is developing programs in response.  

As a member at the time of one of those Advisory Boards pushing for these policies, I was pleased with the relatively rapid actions the Town began. These first steps may lead to significant changes for native landscaping in Erie. Wild Ones, Front Range Chapter members should consider whether their own HOAs, local advisory boards, or local governments could be prompted in the same directions. It could make a big difference. If you need assistance with your HOA, or would like to join our Government Affairs Committee, please contact us.

Curious to learn more about transforming your garden into a habitat with Colorado native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees? Check out our native gardening toolkit, register for an upcoming event, subscribe to our newsletter, and/or become a member – if you’re not one already!