The grass on Bridge Square: still lousy after all these years

A downtown business owner grumbled to me this week about the condition of the grass on Bridge Square, wondering why, if the park is the crown jewel of downtown, the grass in such bad shape.

grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square

grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square
I took these photos last night. Yep, it’s pretty bad in many spots.

Downtown Northfield Streetscape Framework PlanThe condition of the grass is mentioned twice in the Downtown Streetscape Framework Plan, created back in 2006:

P. 71: “Seed grass and repair lawn in Bridge Square.”

P. 73: “Bridge Square would have grass in the bald spots.”

I know, the grass takes a beating because the park is so popular and so many community events are held there.  And there are probably issues with fertilizer and weed killer, both human and environmental organic dry pelleted fertilizer.

With that in mind, is there anything that can be done that would also be cost-effective?  And if so, what time of year would be best to do it?


  1. What would you think of paving it over and placing more flower boxes on it.
    .-= (Hayes Scriven is a blogger. See a recent post titled 4th Street Construction) =-.

    May 21, 2010
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Hayes, you’re still on the Streetscape Task Force, right? Has this grass problem been an agenda item recently? And is paving it really a serious alternative? I’ve not thought about it but it seems drastic. Sitting on the grass listening to music is something I’d miss.

    May 21, 2010
  3. Tracy Davis said:

    How about the guerilla approach? Let’s all carry small ziplocs of grass seed when we go downtown and sprinkle a few seeds when we observe thin or bald patches.
    .-= (Tracy Davis is a blogger. See a recent post titled Roundup ~ last week’s best posts & resources) =-.

    May 21, 2010
  4. This grass problem as not been on the agenda. To be honest, the current problem of the grass is more a issue for the Park Board or TJ and his crew, aren’t they supposed to maintain stuff like this?

    We have not talked specifics about Bridge SQ. We have been trying to come up with a list projects for the next three years and a Bridge Square/Division street master design plan is on the list.

    We have not talked about paving it over. I just have heard from many people that they want to pave it over. But I have also heard 100 other ideas on what to do with the Square.
    .-= (Hayes Scriven is a blogger. See a recent post titled 4th Street Construction) =-.

    May 21, 2010
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Hayes, the Park System Master Plan document, Appendix A:,-Aspen,-Babcock,-Bridge-Square.pdf

    says that you’re responsible, not TJ. Well, sorta:

    At Bridge Square Park, located by the dam, the park space transitions to an urban plaza with planters, ornamental walkways, seating, and sculptures (photo D). This area is more consistent with the historic downtown character of Northfield. To the north of Bridge Square Park the pedestrian walkway continues along the river.

    Development Considerations – Bridge Square: The Downtown Northfield Streetscape Framework Plan was prepared in 2006 to guide redevelopment of this park and riverfront area. This includes reworking the parking lot to create more space for the riverwalk and related streetscape amenities. There are also plans to rebuild aspects to the dam and adjacent walls.

    Potential Development Costs to Optimal Level: No estimate provided since this area is part of the Downtown Northfield Streetscape Framework Plan.

    May 21, 2010
  6. Yes, the development of Bridge Square is under the Streetscape Taskforce, but, I would assume that TJ and his crew are responsible for the maintenance (like planting grass seed and watering it) of the current grass that is there.

    As I stated earlier the Taskforce is proposing to the city to start a master development/improvement plan for Bridge Square and Division Street.
    .-= (Hayes Scriven is a blogger. See a recent post titled 4th Street Construction) =-.

    May 21, 2010
  7. John S. Thomas said:

    Some black dirt, perhaps some compost, and perhaps some sod would be a nice investment in our downtown.

    Grass in our other parks does not look like this. This just needs some attention.

    May 21, 2010
  8. kiffi summa said:

    Plant perennial rye grass, instead of typical lawn mixtures, and keep it well mowed. It is coarser but it also MUCH tougher.

    We had this at our house (converted from a stable) in Lake Forest , IL, and it was never brown in August when all the neighbor’s fancier lawns were dead looking.

    May 21, 2010
  9. Larry DeBoer said:

    I would recommend “TurfProtecta” – plastic mats that allow grass to grow through and vehicles can drive on it. It should be strong enough to take all the traffic the park gets. It’s from Boddingtons – . We use it on some cart parking areas at the Northfield Golf Club. I would also recommend that the Defeat of Jesse James Days food vendors move to a temporarily closed off 5th Street, between Division and Water St. to keep the wear and tear off Bridge Square Park. The food could be carried back to Bridge Square Park if they bring in park picnic tables and eat it there.

    May 21, 2010
  10. Kiffi,

    This sounds like a reasonable, cost effective idea. Perennial rye grass, even if just provided with some raked up areas, some compost, and some over-seeding would make a big difference.

    I am curious who we need to get involved. Personally, I dislike the way the grass in Bridge Square looks, and would be willing to contribute to a fund similar to like what was done for the fireworks donations. Put out some jars at the local downtown establishments, raise some funds, and get it done!

    I wonder if our folks like Ross, Hayes, and our mayor could help us out with this one? If we could raise the funds, would the city perhaps donate some labor (or is it truly a donation if the park is city owned?)

    May 23, 2010
  11. Ross Currier said:

    John, as the E D of the NDDC, I do hear more than a few comments about the grass in Bridge Square. Several have made the unfavorable comparison with other City parks. Admittedly, Bridge Square is subjected to more traffic “per square foot” than other parks.

    The NDDC has sent annual letters to the City, thanking them for the “Spring Cleaning” which typically includes seeding and tending Bridge Square. I will note that, in my opinion, Heidi Hamilton, in particular, did a really nice job with Bridge Square.

    We live in times of budget cuts, however. Several comments have suggested to me that the dollar amount for Bridge Square must be relatively small and its role in the perceptions about our community is relatively great.

    I would expect the NDDC to continue to advocate for Bridge Square. However, contacting your Councilor with your individual, citizen’s priorities for the municipal budget is important too.
    .-= (Ross Currier is a blogger. See a recent post titled Councilor Jon Denison’s Ward 4 meeting) =-.

    May 24, 2010
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    Given that A) this has been an identified problem for four years; B) City Hall is facing a big budget deficit; and C) apparently a lot could be done with some grass alternatives, why couldn’t the Streetscape Task Force make a quick decision, allocate some of its money, and direct the City’s Parks Dept. to get this done in time for the Aug. Vintage Band Festival? Can the grass be fixed in 3 months?

    May 24, 2010
  13. kiffi summa said:

    The grass can be fixed in a month if we have more typical weather for this time of night, which is cool nights, warm days.

    Of course the VBF is important with all the people it brings to town… but what about fixing it because it SHOULD BE FIXED, because this is the heart of our little city, and we, the citizens, expect it to be kept up to an acceptable standard?

    May 24, 2010
  14. Griff: you are right. I will bring this up at the next Streetscape meeting about planting the grass. However, I still disagree that it is the streetscape task-forces job to maintain parks, streets etc… It has always been my understanding that the task-force was to spur new enhancements to the TIFF district. So if new grass is planted, then next year I would assume that it would be maintained by the Parks Dept to keep it up.
    .-= (Hayes Scriven is a blogger. See a recent post titled 4th Street Construction) =-.

    May 25, 2010
  15. Patrick Enders said:

    I think paving Bridge Square is a terrible idea. Even though you have heard “many people” say we should pave it over, I suspect that is a minority position.

    May 25, 2010
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Councilor Jon Denison told me this morning that he checked with the City Finance Dept and Streetscape Task Force money (from the downtown TIF district) can’t be used for public parks.

    May 27, 2010
  17. I worked in a popular landscape gardens at the southern tip of Lake Michigan for six seasons… There were a couple of spots where walking traffic had compacted the soil so much that nothing would grow, despite many different approaches.

    My guess is that you have to start fresh with several feet of well draining planting mix and seed it and let it take root for a few seasons, and then it would just get squished again. Concrete is probably the safest and best alternative, with sections of plantings that are too high to traverse.

    Concrete is very plentiful and cheap. Hopefully, you could get some volunteer labor and trade them something like a family picnic night out.

    May 27, 2010

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