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Mt. Nebo Cemetery testing drought-resistant sod

You think your water bill gets too high in the summertime? Just think how it is to operate Mount Nebo Cemetery, where the water bill can be as much as $40,000 a month.

Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Aurora, Colorado.

Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Aurora, Colorado.

The cemetery’s board and management are testing a new engineered grass — Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass by Scienturfic — which could reduce that amount to $5,000 a month.

According to Court Monaghan, whose landscaping company Hardin’s Finest is contracted to maintain Mt. Nebo’s 30 acres, Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass has deeper roots than Kentucky bluegrass, the species currently covering the ground there, and requires considerably less water.

On Friday, March 18, Gov. Jared Polis signed a law prohibiting the installation of ornamental grass, invasive plants and artificial turf on most commercial, industrial and state government properties. The bill’s sponsors’ goal is to reduce water use as Colorado’s supplies, according to reporting by Elise Schmelzer in the Canon City Daily Record.

The new law takes effect in 2026. Monaghan says Mt. Nebo is working proactively.

On top of the new Colorado law, the city of Aurora, where Mt. Nebo is located, is imposing water restrictions.

Monaghan says many Colorado municipalities have replaced the Kentucky bluegrass in their public spaces with Tahoma 31 and are pleased with the results — and the savings.

Mt. Nebo Administrator Jay Siegel explains that an alpha test of the bermudagrass commenced this week in section N14 at the southeast corner of the cemetery, which is located at 11701 E. 13th Ave.

Section N14 contains a few existing graves and covers 43,750 square feet.

The cost of the alpha test is $131,250. In this test at Mt. Nebo, after the bluegrass is removed, the ground is prepared with soil amendments and the Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass sod is installed and monitored. Then, Mount Nebo will decide whether to proceed with the beta test, perhaps in the opposite corner of the cemetery.

Monaghan says the success of the alpha test should be apparent in the fall of 2024.

The new grass will be irrigated with something similar to a drip system, which has already been upgraded throughout the cemetery.

Plans are also in place to straighten all the headstones in the cemetery.

Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass was developed by researchers at Oklahoma State University. It was tested in 36 locations across the country over many years in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program.

Promotional material for ScienTurfic’s Tahoma 31 says the grass is a “game changer” in that it has all the water saving benefits of a warm-season grass while being able to tolerate the harsh cold winters in Colorado.

More than 50 golf courses, football fields and soccer complexes nationwide, including Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and the Los Angeles Coliseum, use Tahoma 31.

Another objective of the Mt. Nebo project, says Monaghan, is to “retain the ability to have grass in the cemetery to avoid xeriscaping, as xeriscaping causes surface temperatures to rise and is not esthetically pleasing.”

Mt. Nebo plans to expand its grounds to the land it owns across 13th Avenue. That land is currently undeveloped, and it was originally thought that the expansion would be executed with natural growth and xeriscaping, but with the hoped-for success of Tahoma 31, that idea may change.

“Cemeteries are capital- and labor-intensive to maintain,” says Siegel. “We want to be proactive instead of reactive.”

Monaghan adds, “The object is to “preserve the beauty that has been realized in the cemetery for the community and family members who have loved ones in the cemetery.”

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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