They must be on grass

Brian Jones
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The “No mow zone” sign didn’t make much sense. The long, high grass on the hillside in Bowring Park was intentionally being left in its natural state, the sign explained.

I took another look at the hillside, which, in previous summers, had been tidily mowed.

Natural state? Someone at St. John’s City Hall had apparently confused the lovely urban park with the Cypress Hills, a picturesque stretch of rolling prairie straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

The hillside in Bowring Park was no Cypress Hills.

The tall grass simply made it look messy, unkept and tacky. A rusting car up on blocks and without tires would have fit right in.

It would have been another thing altogether if buffalo were grazing in the distance. But this was Bowring Park. As in, park.

A place where families can spread a blanket and have a picnic, where barefoot toddlers can run with glee over the soft, warm grass, and where deep-green lawns complement the beauty of the flower gardens and trees.

Nature’s way

“Natural” is not always better, despite the claims of advertisers and green propagandists. If it were, we’d still drink unpasteurized milk and drive on rutted cart paths (the Outer Ring Road excepted).

“Lawn” has, in recent years, become a four-letter word, associated with suburban sprawl and lazy homeowners who would rather spray deadly pesticides that imperil every child within a half-mile radius than get down on their knees and do some gardening.

The lawn vs. nature debate ends at a single question: what would you rather look at?

Personally, I like the look of a well-maintained lawn. If it has to contain a fake, plastic birdfeeder, so be it.

Some people prefer to let nature take its course.

That explains why some lots — not all of which are abandoned — look like trailers for “Invasion of the Dandelions: The Movie.”

What people do on their private property is their own business, to a point.

But public parks that resemble an abandoned lot or hippie home are an embarrassment and a disgrace.

Safe snipping

Reading the explanation of the “No mow sign,” it is tempting to conclude city hall is simply trying to save money, and the need to cut costs has affected politicians’ minds to such an extent that they think it is reasonable to let whole sections of a wonderful place like Bowring Park become overgrown and ugly.

Tuesday’s headlines offered a different reason. Apparently, it’s a safety issue.

Excuse me for a minute while I go roll around on my lawn and laugh hysterically.

City policy states workers cannot use ride-on mowers on grades greater than 10 per cent, and cannot use push mowers on grades greater than 15 per cent.

What the…?! In mountainous British Columbia, kids play hockey on outdoor rinks tilted more than that.

Some city council members expressed concern that workers might trim their toes along with the grass. Maybe, if they’re wearing sandals. But steel-toed boots quickly defeat the bloodthirsty aspirations of digit-lopping blades.

Ride-on mowers? Are they serious? Doesn’t that task come with an obligatory beer?

Those wild, life-threatening slopes can be tamed safely and economically. Some lawn mowers have an automatic shutoff, so if the operator slips or falls and his/her hand comes off the handle, the motor shuts off and the blades stop. They’re available at local hardware stores at good prices, and enable even clumsy people to fearlessly mow steep hillsides without danger of dismemberment.

If city hall would invest in a few, and ask for brave volunteers among its municipal crews to step forward, local parks could look like parks again, instead of like the yard of a guy who packed up and left for better pastures in Ontario or Alberta.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Bowring Park, Outer Ring Road, British Columbia Ontario

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