Monday, November 3, 2014

Xeriscape Don't "Zero-scape" Fort Bliss Cemetery

This is not xeriscaping.
This is.
Tomorrow City Council will discuss and vote on a resolution which urges Fort Bliss to replace the "xeriscaping" at the national cemetery with grass. The resolution (Item 10.1 on the agenda) is at the request of Rep. Beto O'Rourke and is sponsored by Niland, Noe and Romero. 

elpasonaturally is a big fan of Beto O'Rourke however must part with him on this one as it did on his recent vote against support for Israel. 

The chief problem with the resolution is the false belief held by most of El Paso that the cemetery or anything like it is xeriscaping. Merely throwing red rock screening on the ground (and abetting the destruction of our mountains at the same time) is not xeriscaping. The Texas Master Gardeners, part of the Texas AgriLife Extension, says: 

"Xeriscape means dry landscaping - perfect for an area like the desert. Xeriscape creates a visually attractive landscape that uses native plants selected for their water efficiency. Properly installed and maintained, a Xeriscape can use less than one-half the water of a traditional landscape and require less maintenance than a landscape that is primarily lawn." [Emphases mine.]

Read the Master Gardener page about xeriscape and take a look at the posted picture. Visit Eartheasy xeriscape page and see the picture and look over the plant selection. Best thing: visit the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at the UTEP Centennial Museum and/or the El Paso Desert Botanical Garden at Keystone Heritage Park.

Finally, read this open letter from Marshall Carter-Tripp urging the xeriscaping of the cemetary not the zero-scaping that now exists nor its replacement with water-thirsty grass: 

Restoring Grass at Fort Bliss Cemetery?

"The El Paso Times reports that the El Paso City Council will consider tomorrow a resolution urging that grass be restored to the Fort Bliss cemetery, at the request of Representative O’Rourke.

"El Paso and Fort Bliss are located in the mountainous Chihuahuan Desert, and moreover are experiencing long-term drought.  The Rio “Grande” is empty a good part of the year.   While the PSB assures us that we will continue to have a safe water supply, it is also “mining” the underlying aquifer for that supply.   The cemetery was using some 62 million gallons of water a year to maintain the grass.  What kind of message would it send to resume pumping that much water for grass?   Arlington National Cemetery is cited as having grass.  It is located in the Washington, D.C area, which receives over 40 inches of rain a year, more than four times as much as do El Paso and Fort Bliss.  Water use is not an issue there!

"The real problem with the cemetery at Fort Bliss appears to be inadequate xeriscaping.  Xeriscaping does NOT mean just sand and gravel, more correctly called “zero-scaping.”  Landscaping with native plants and other drought-tolerant plants can be very beautiful Perhaps if the Fort Bliss authorities visited the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at UITEP, or the gardens at Keystone, they might get some sense of what can be done. The West Texas Urban Forestry Council would help plan for better tree cover, and there is much expertise in the El Paso Native Plant Society.   Trees will help reduce water use even if grass is restored.

"The remarks quoted in the Times’ report suggest that the only standard of beauty is grass.  Should we call it the “Downton Abbey rule?”   Why must respect for the dead be measured in blades of grass?

"My spouse is a military veteran.  He will not be buried at Fort Bliss, as he is donating his body to the Texas Tech medical school.   Even if he were there, he would not be less at rest under a desert willow rather than grass!  Should I survive him, my grief would not be diminished by grass, and I would in fact regret the misuse of water and energy to maintain that grass.   We have no grass in our own yard  - but it is full of beautiful plants at all seasons.   

"Let us honor the dead, and their families, by respecting the beauty of our own landscape, and by respecting the need to conserve water for the generations to come." - Marshall Carter Tripp

Let us hope that City Council will change its resolution and urge Ft. Bliss officials truly to xeriscape the cemetery and not use just gravel or replace gravel with water and maintenance intensive grass.

1 comment:

  1. This retired Sergeant Major, with 26 years of service, is NOT in favor of turf grass at Ft Bliss National Cemetery. Even Zero-scape is better than wasting water.