Boulder, Colorado, located 25 miles north of Denver, and at 5,430 feet above sea level, isn’t necessarily the most hospitable location for turfgrass, especially for the high-wear-and-tear that parks and recreational fields endure.
When coupled with a determination to avoid the use of any pesticides or herbicides, you have a sense of the challenge faced by the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department Park Operations workgroup.
Managing nearly 420 acres of managed turf and irrigated park lands, 22 premier athletic fields and 25 rental-quality fields, the city department has found success with a combination of two “cool season” grasses: RPR® and HGT®.
Hardier Than Wear or Weeds
It’s been four years since John Cogdill, Parks Construction/Operations Manager for the City of Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Department, Park Operations workgroup, saw a trade publication ad for RPR –Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass. This patented subspecies of perennial ryegrass, developed by Oregon’s Barenbrug USA, was relatively new on the market, and appeared to be the answer Cogdill needed for wear tolerance and field recovery on the more than 50 acres of sports fields he manages.
Early in the spring, Cogdill and his team will seed RPR, which grows in quickly, provides early traffic tolerance and has an early-season green-up. Then, in late summer, parks and fields are overseeded as necessary with another Barenbrug product, Turf Blue HGT – Healthy Grass Technology – a bluegrass blend that establishes very fast, provides strong wear tolerance with quick recovery and is highly resistant to disease.
Since his first Barenbrug seed purchase from Golf Enviro nearly four years ago, Cogdill continues to use seeding and overseeding as his primary turfgrass placement. If the area of new grass or renovation is large enough, he’ll turn to Graff’s Turf, a licensed Barenbrug grower, to provide grown sod.
The combination of RPR and HGT has proven to be a robust and vibrant solution for all of Boulder’s municipal fields and parks.
“These grasses will out-compete the weeds,” Cogdill says, noting that while Scott Carpenter Park has no dandelions, the grass surrounding a facility across the street is rife with the weeds.
The results can be seen on the athletic fields and has been nationally recognized. The Championship Field at Pleasant View was named the 2014 Sporting Grounds of the Year by both the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) and the Colorado Sports Turf Managers Association (CSTMA). The field is home to rugby, soccer and Ultimate Frisbee competitions and sees up to 400 hours of play per year.
City parks have similar issues of wear, as seen on a June afternoon as Ironman organizers were preparing for a competition, with tents and tables being set up in advance of thousands of people covering the grounds at the Boulder Reservoir.
But these parks often pose very different conditions for growing and maintaining grass. Scott Carpenter Park features a hill that was the city’s first dump. Elks Park was largely covered by granite rock two years ago, as a flood brought the material down from the surrounding mountains. Last fall the area was seeded with RPR, with noticeable success, and Cogdill plans to overseed later this year with HGT, filling in some remaining gaps and giving the turf greater wear resistance.
Pleasant View Fields Sports Complex, in particular, has a unique challenge. “Canada Geese,” Cogdill points out as the biggest challenge in maintaining healthy grass on the athletic fields. “They burrow holes in the field with their beaks eating the roots of the turfgrass. These holes, which can be 10 inches across and six inches deep, then have to be backfilled with sand and organic material and seeded. With RPR we’ll see emergence in just seven days.”
Aesthetics is always a consideration for those managing landscapes and the strong regenerative properties of RPR help ensure that fields and parks look nice. But particularly on sports fields, such as those at the Pleasant View Fields Sports Complex which see up to 45 hours per week of play, safety is Cogdill’s primary concern.
“Everything we do is about player safety,” said Cogdill. “A key focus is field attenuation, or hardness.”
Following ASTM standards for testing, the Boulder parks department ensures that the playing fields are as safe as possible, using guidelines by STMA and the American Family Safety Council.
“We’ve found that since using RPR and HGT, along with proper watering and aeration practices, the field surfaces are consistently within the ranges we find acceptable,” Cogdill said.
Serving the people of Boulder along with the community’s visitors is key to his job, according to Cogdill. Boulder is an active town and the playing fields and parks are an integral aspect of community life.
“Creating an aesthetically pleasing and high quality outdoor experience is a big part of our responsibility,” Cogdill said.
“The best part is giving the kids a great surface to play on.”
Barenbrug, says Cogdill, has been a reliable partner in his work, providing “great customer and technical service.” Also important has been the company’s seed development that allows for environmentally responsible turfgrass growth, especially noteworthy in a community that is environment-conscious.
Asked what advice regarding RPR and HGT he would give to other parks managers, Cogdill said, “Given the right environmental conditions, these grasses reduce the amount of herbicides and pesticides you use and provide great coverage.”
In the end, great grass is something that has to be experienced; seen up close and felt underfoot and by hand. The work that the Parks Operations team for the City of Boulder has done, using the combination of regenerating ryegrass and bluegrass speaks, for itself and speaks well of the effort that has gone into it.