With acres of property, and many acres of maintained lawn, the Metropolitan Council sought an ecological approach to land management. Not only is lawn maintenance an environmentally unfriendly practice—consuming a lot of fuel, water, fertilizer, and pesticides—lawn maintenance is costly. With Barr’s guidance, the Metropolitan Council developed sustainable landscape guidelines to inform their land-use approach.
Sustainable landscapes are designed to work with nature and improve ecological function. Features include capturing and reusing stormwater to conserve potable water; building soil and sequestering carbon dioxide; diversifying plantings, creating pollinator habitat; and much more. Once established, maintenance costs for sustainable landscapes are significantly lower than traditional lawn maintenance.
While developing the sustainable landscape guidelines, Barr and the Metropolitan Council worked to balance the prioritization of sustainable landscape with the need to protect and preserve accessibility to underground utilities, provide site security, and to be socially equitable. To focus design and management resources where higher maintenance landscapes are most seen and appreciated, the master plan organized landscape zones. Front yard zones are the most visible parts of properties; they receive the richest landscape design and require the most maintenance. Side and back yard zones are visible while driving through properties but are only occasionally used by staff. These areas include simple plantings that are not irrigated and will provide visual appeal while being low maintenance. The back 40 zones are out-of-the way areas used for habitat and passive recreation. Planted with native plant communities, they require little maintenance.
The guidelines developed are being implemented as sustainable landscapes are phased into Metropolitan Council land. These lands will be an environmental asset to host pollinator species and other wildlife, sequester carbon dioxide, clean the air, and filter stormwater, as well as be beautiful places for people to experience.