Grass Roots Movement
By Steve Walker, owner of a Colorado based synthetic turf
company since 1987
We live in a semi-arid environment; however, in recent
years it’s been more like a desert! Many Denverites think this is
the Midwest, planting grass like there’s no tomorrow. Wake up
Denver, we are in a drought! We must change our over-zealous need for
sod, seed, and water.
Xeriscaping is gaining momentum as a viable alternative
for grass lawns. So why is the acceptance of synthetic grass taking
so long? The new synthetic grass is nothing like the old
indoor/outdoor artificial turf. Kneel down close enough to inspect
it and you can tell it's not real. But like one of those really good
artificial Christmas trees, from a few feet away, it looks real. You
have to touch it to be sure. It’s so lifelike it fools people and
Some Denver-Metro cities are paranoid of synthetic
grass, and have even gone as far as banning it. In a recent town
meeting the city of Thornton banned synthetic grass, and mandated the
removal of residential synthetic lawns. It’s ironic that the city of
Thornton uses the same synthetic grass at their very own Five-Star
Stadium. On the other hand, cities have liability burdens, and must
take precautions. Cities say synthetic turf is too new and unproven.
From my perspective, it’s not new. My company ProGreen
International, Inc. has been installing synthetic grass since 1987.
We have installed hundreds of thousands of square feet of synthetic
grass for playgrounds, dog runs, athletic fields, putting greens and
landscape grass. To date, we have not experienced any problems with
run-off, fading or deterioration. So again, from our experience, a
properly manufactured and installed synthetic grass system is a proven
The city of Aurora has authorized a single homeowner to
be the official test site for synthetic grass. Does this mean the
fate of synthetic grass, in Aurora, is in the hands of one homeowner?
Even though we have properly manufactured and installed synthetic turf
systems that have already been installed, tested, and proven, we
support more testing and anticipate positive results from Aurora’s
test site. We applaud Aurora for putting out the effort to get
synthetic turf approved and on its way into drought stricken
Opponents of synthetic grass are primarily concerned
about property values, drainage, flammability, utility access, fading,
and mold. Each of these issues are addressed below.
Will Property values decrease? If
anything, we believe property values would increase due to lower
water costs and the lack of sprinkler system maintenance. The only
negative impact we have encountered is that synthetic grass remains
green, even in the dead of winter (is that really bad?). However, a
creative combination of xeriscaping and synthetic grass provides a
more natural appearance.
Drainage Problems? A common
misconception is that the new synthetic grass is similar to
household carpet. In fact this intricate system involves properly
constructing a sub-base, and utilizing turf with holes in the
backing that is filled with sand and rubber granules. This system
diverts the majority of water vertically, just like natural grass.
The sand/rubber granules, which we call “infill,” absorb and hold
the water, which eventually drains through the holes and sub-base
material. Some water will run off the top under heavy rains, just
as natural grass or dirt would. Since water drains vertically, soil
heating or organic loss is not an issue. Synthetic turf has a
vertical drainage advantage over rock because the infill material
(sand and rubber) absorbs and holds water, which allows for
increased vertical drainage and evaporation.
Flammability? As long as the
grass is properly filled, the infill material (sand and rubber) will
prevent a fire from spreading, and actually extinguish a fire.
We’ve had our product tested for flammability and it passed with
flying colors. Our products are designed to meet the most stringent
requirements of fire tests. We believe a synthetic turf system is
less susceptible to flammability than a dead natural grass lawn.
Utility Access? Some city
officials are worried about the difficulty in gaining access for
utility repair. It is not difficult to cut the material and roll
the turf (with the infill) back, away from the utility repair area.
When the utility repair has been made and the dirt is replaced and
re-graded, the turf is simply rolled back and seamed. The seam is
virtually invisible. If this repair were done on natural grass, sod
would have to be replaced. And who knows, with all the water
restrictions, the sod may never grow back!
Once educated with synthetic turf installation
processes, doubts regarding synthetic grass should be alleviated.
Recently, Thornton residents, Bruce and Marge
Spainhower, were told to remove their synthetic lawn. Marge Spainhower,
in her statement to the city, said,
“I would like to invite you to come and inspect our lawn and see how
the lawn looks and how the process works. We had over 30 inches of
snow on our synthetic lawn from the big snowstorm and we had no
drainage problems when it melted. You can put a lighted match or
burning cigarette on top of it and it does not burn, it’s immediately
extinguished by the sand mixture that covers it. A dry lawn is a
bigger fire hazard than this turf. As far as pets are concerned, we
have a dog and she wets on it and it evaporates just like a real
grass, and you don’t have to worry about yellow spots all over as it
does not stain and gets washed through the system when it rains.”
I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Water
shortages are becoming an epidemic in Colorado. According to the
Denver Water Board, over 50% of our water usage goes to maintaining
landscapes. Imagine the water that could be saved if only 10% of
Colorado homeowners didn’t have to water their lawns.
What surprises me most, are the people that are against
artificial grass, are also against environmentally harmful pesticides
and fertilizers. Our product negates the necessity for additional
fertilizers and pesticides in our environment. The use of our turf
products provides another use for tires that would have ended up in
our landfills. We have customers that desperately want our product,
only to be told “no” by their homeowner’s association board or
municipality. The opponents have not been educated with current turf
technology. Their anxiety and fears will disappear once they
understand that this is a PROVEN PRODUCT.
Lighten up Colorado! Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico
have been installing synthetic grass by the truckloads. Instead of
banning synthetic grass, we should be embracing it! How about giving
tax credits or rebates to people who install water saving surfaces?
Let's conserve our most precious natural resource;
water, and beautify our homes with a no maintenance, great looking,
safe, synthetic grass system.
Steve Walker, President
ProGreen International, Inc.