Shortly after the California Water Board issued a statewide directive to cities mandating a 25 percent water cut, a new sign sprouted in Old Top of the World Park: “Irrigation Off to Save Water.”
Local newspapers and a response to our email from City Manager John Pietig confirmed that the council had voted to cut water to the park in response to the mandate. Neither the media nor the city manager, however, provided an answer to questions we have that have been echoed by many in our neighborhood: (1) Why our park? and (2) What is the city’s overall plan? The overwhelmingly negative nature of the sign contributes to the sense of the many people who visit and enjoy the park that it is being unfairly singled out.
Rather than summarily stopping irrigation to one park and planting signs that explain nothing, the city of Laguna Beach should follow the grassroots movement’s example of how to go grass-free. Laguna should tally grass-acres across the city (including school district property) and evaluate what percentage needs to be used for recreational purposes. From there, they should implement an immediate plan to remove sections of unneeded grass in medians (as they’ve begun in the canyon), in front of city hall and other city buildings. The city should replace it immediately with landscaping that would set a water-saving example for residents.
In addition the city should immediately:
Send letters to landlords requiring them to check all sprinklers and adjust timers in accordance with city regulations.
Set up a hotline for citizens to report water violations.
Most important, the city should immediately follow the example of the water district’s demonstration garden and replant the lawn in front of city hall with drought-tolerant landscaping, along with interpretive signs explaining how native plants promote wildlife, reduce maintenance costs and eliminate the need for harmful fertilizers and pesticides. This lawn represents a missed opportunity for the city to demonstrate leadership on conservation, generate goodwill from citizens and garner positive media attention on a state and national level.
The choice should be clear. Does Laguna want to be known as a rich water waster or a leader in water conservation? Does it want to lead by example or take symbolic measures? Does it want to enlist the involvement of the community or alienate it?
Ellen Kempler, Laguna