Mitigation Strategies and Maintenance
Open Space is defined as: Protected lands of significant value include those that are conserved in their natural state, restored, or improved, with appropriate native landscaping, to retain a natural or natural appearing condition, or to conserve quality agriculture.
In addition to parks, recreation, and trails, open space should be seen as a means to help direct growth, maintain rural character, and provide opportunities for education, wildlife protection and observation, hiking, and other passive and recreation activities for existing and future Erie residents. As such, our Parks Division has several strategies in place to maintain and protect the integrity of our open space and natural resource areas.
Know Your Property Line
We recognize the warm weather and drier-than-usual conditions and have heard your concerns regarding our Town-maintained open space and the potential for wildfires in urban landscapes. The Parks & Recreation Department utilizes nationally recognized best management practices that include several mowing techniques and strategies for open space land based on its proximity to adjacent properties and trail corridors, desirable and non-desirable plant composition and diversity, slope, terrain, and wildlife habitat, etc. These techniques and strategies include no mow, entirely mow, and partially mow zones with frequencies ranging from never to multiple times per year dependent on the individual characteristics of the property.
The health of the resource and public safety are key goals of developing management strategies for individual properties.
Tall grasses are a fire hazard. They need mowed to prevent a fire.
- Mowing tall grasses does not remove the fire fuel load. Cut grasses are concentrated on the ground and will dry quickly which may result in a hotter fire.
- Tall, actively growing grasses act as “water reservoirs" and stay greener longer through the growing season compared to mowed areas. These actively growing grasses provide a level of defense against a stronger-intensity wildfire.
- Healthy native grasses help to out-compete cheat grass and other invasive winter annual grasses that are known to achieve monoculture and create altered and extremely dangerous wildland fire regimes.
- There are more than 900 acres of native grass within the Town's open space portfolio; repeatedly mowing entire open space areas is not a realistic or effective tactic for fire prevention.
- However, the Town does mow a curtesy strip behind fences and homes that back to Town maintained open space areas, as well as along Town maintained trails. Fence line mowing prevents weed growth and provides some level of fire protection, while trailside mowing provides an excellent fire break. Fence lines are mowed at least twice a growing season, and trail edges are mowed monthly from May through October. Town staff plan to begin fence line mowing operations on Monday, April 25, 2022. This will take approximately two weeks to complete
- Staff regularly assess all Town-maintained trees for risk that are in close proximity to adjacent properties, structures, and trail corridors and will mitigate any risks. Standing dead trees will be left standing in natural areas that are far away from adjacent properties, structures, and trail corridors. These provide a wealth of resources and habitat for wildlife.
What YOU as a Homeowner Can Do
If you are concerned about the potential for damage to your property, your best defense is to maintain your lawn. If there are trees or shrubs adjacent to the natural area and close to structures, you might consider removing them utilizing a licensed arborist. Removing brush build-up in and around your yard reduces fuel for wildfire spread. When landscaping, maintain a distance between plantings and structures, especially trees.
Another local resource to learn about fire mitigation at home is Wildfire Partners. This program is intended for mountain communities, but the advice and strategies for retrofitting your home to mitigate fire dangers can be just as relevant in our urban areas. You can view a photo gallery and explanation of possible projects you can do at your home for greater fire protection.
Also set yourself and your family up to receive emergency notifications. View the Town's Emergency Preparedness page for more details on how to sign up for alerts and other ways to be prepared.