by Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley Communications Relations Coordinator
It’s that time of year when we’re all a little winter weary and wishing for spring. We look forward to our own gardens, perhaps perusing the seed and plant catalogs for something new to grow.
But if your tastes run to green, cool lawns and large displays of trees and flowers, the dream can be a bit daunting in our dry climate and rocky soil. No need to put in that much work, though, because the Town of Prescott Valley has a wealth of gardens for the public’s enjoyment.
One of the Town’s calculated conservation measures was to design its Civic Center and 28 parks with expanses of inviting lawn. This allows the public to enjoy many activities — impromptu football games, organized sports, picnics, walking or just simply sitting under a tree with a good book — without having to plant, water and maintain that lawn at home. These large grassy areas have encouraged homeowners to make use of the parks rather than landscape their homes with turf. Instead, they opt for more drought- tolerant plants in their yards.
Smart Technology Making a Difference
With the recent addition of Bob Edwards Park off Long Look Drive, Prescott Valley has about 50 acres of grass, not including the under-construction Granville Park off Glassford Hill Road.
This expanse of inviting lawns is thirsty, but that doesn’t mean the Town isn’t careful to conserve water. First, several of the area’s larger parks are designed as “catch basins,” meaning that during particularly heavy monsoon rains they fill with large quantities of water that might normally flood streets and homes, releasing it at a slower flow rate that drainage downstream can handle.
In fall 2012 the Town received a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help replace the irrigation timers at the Town’s parks with smart technology timers that incorporate Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). Ten irrigation clocks were updated late that year, and the remaining 11 clocks in 2013. Additionally, rain sensors were installed in all parks.
The system measures how much water the Town’s turf uses each day and how much is needed to replenish and keep it healthy. It is centrally controlled and also takes weather into consideration, using reports from Love Field in Prescott.
Town Parks Supervisor Nick Groblewski says the airport is close to Prescott Valley and similar in climate, with the exception of random summer monsoon storms. If those occur, he can access the cloud-based system from wherever he is and shut down watering in any area of the Town. Additionally, some sites have sensors that suspend watering if it rains. The system also alerts staff to abnormal flow rates that could indicate a leak or other problem, allowing them to remotely shut down watering in that area.
“That way we won’t have a broken water line running all night long,” Groblewski says.
An evaluation of the system’s performance in the first year (with 10 parks installed) indicated it saved nearly 4.5 million gallons of water, or 13.6-acre feet, and $17,000 in water costs. The estimated savings in 2014 (with the system at all parks installed) was approximately 6.4 million gallons, or 19.6-acre feet.
“The system has already paid for itself just in man hours and fuel, as well as water,” Groblewski says.
Civic Center a Big Draw
The Civic Center complex is one of the most popular walking and recreation areas in the community. In the spring and summer, bright yellow day lilies, green trees and shrubs and a number of other flowers brighten the grounds. The library area is xeriscaped with the intent to educate the public about native plants and their use in the landscape. One of the most attractive parts of the xeriscape is the many colorful prickly pear cactus plants producing beautiful blooms in the spring. In late summer, locals harvest the pears and to make jelly.
Birds find the Civic Center irresistible, and many nest on the grounds. Visitors might see several kinds of finches, mockingbirds, meadowlarks, flycatchers and roadrunners. Red-tailed and other hawks frequent the surrounding skies and hunt from the tops of buildings, and owls often can be spotted in the evening hours.
As spring and summer approaches, be sure to plan time to enjoy Prescott Valley’s public parks and leave the mowing and watering to us!
For a list of public parks in Prescott Valley, visit pvaz.net/Facilities