Elk River looks for solution to tall prairie grass in median

City officials say the height of native prairie plants in the Orono Parkway median near City Hall are a public safety concern because they obstruct motorists’ views.

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Prairie plants in the median near Elk River City Hall and the library will be mowed this fall to improve visibility for motorists. A longer-term solution will also be considered.
Native prairie plants in the median range in height from 12 to 58 inches. The overall height of the prairie in general is about three feet. Police Chief Brad Rolfe said it presents a public safety concern.
Rolfe and City Engineer Justin Femrite had been asked to review the matter by Interim City Administrator Bob Thistle.
Rolfe presented his report to the City Council Monday, Oct. 3.
He said no accidents have been reported on Orono Parkway that can be directly attributed to vision obstruction due to the height of the plants in the median. But he said there is significant anecdotal history.
“Practically every city hall employee, myself included, have had close calls out there on the median due to the height of the grass,” Rolfe told the council.
The Orono Parkway median was planted with native plants about eight years ago. Rolfe checked with Prairie Restorations in Princeton and said mowing the plants now will not damage them, as they are mature and the growing season is over. The prairie plantings that will be mowed are in the Orono Parkway median from the city hall-library campus west to Joplin Street.
The council agreed the height of the plants is a problem. The council authorized the mowing of the median now and directed the city staff to come back with some options for a permanent solution that could be implemented next year.

City officials say the height of native prairie plants in the Orono Parkway median near City Hall are a public safety concern because they obstruct motorists’ views.

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