grass at trailwinds park

Naturally Thornton

Thornton manages over 140 miles of trails and 2500+ acres of parks and open space for residents to enjoy aesthetically and personally. Daily operations and maintenance are coupled with planning for the future of these spaces. In 2019 the city began developing a long-term plan for transitioning low-use spaces from traditional, water-intensive turf-grass, into sustainable, Colorado-friendly water-wise landscapes and grass.

  • A sustainable landscape is an attractive environment that is in balance with the local climate and requires minimal resource inputs, such as fertilizer, pesticides, gasoline, staff time, and water.
  • Benefits of a sustainable landscape include:
    • Water conservation
    • Reducing our carbon footprint with less chemicals and gasoline
    • Enhancing native and resilient vegetation
    • Increasing biodiversity of plants, pollinators, and other wildlife
    • Providing a landscape that is more sustainable to the ecosystem long-term
    • Staff time redirection and fiscal savings

  • Find which projects are taking place near you by visiting our projects map link.

Since 2007 Thornton Water customers have been learning how to save more water at home. Our water efficiency campaign has continued to promote indoor and outdoor water efficiency including the H2Overhaul Program that helps residents convert part of their yards into water-wise landscapes. In addition to Thornton's demonstration gardens, we are applying these practices throughout the city in our parks and open spaces. 

  • Thornton is "walking the talk" by transitioning to more Colorado-friendly landscapes in our parks and open space.

  • Water efficiency is important both for water customers and for city operations.

  • Thornton Water is leading by example to illuminate the idea that converting high-water turf into water-wise landscapes can achieve aesthetically pleasing outdoor space. 

  • Water efficiency may look different for parks and open spaces than it does for residential customers. For example, daily irrigation system audits on public property and watering recreational sports turf requires a systematic cycle that may include watering during the day which is not recommended for Thornton Water customers. 

  • Thornton Water's H2Overhaul Kit helps water customers with step-by-step instructions for transitioning a portion of their yard into water-wise landscaping that can increase curb appeal, promote biodiversity and increased wildlife, and save water on monthly water bills.

Naturally Thornton FAQ's

 What is Naturally Thornton?

Naturally Thornton is a City wide sustainability effort focused, but not limited to, the reduction of water consumption and environmental enhancement.

How will Naturally Thornton affect our City Park land?

The Naturally Thornton program will remove passive (low use) Kentucky bluegrass and replace with native/sustainable landscapes.

How long will the Naturally Thornton process take?

At each site, the process of bluegrass to native/sustainable grass conversion will take three years to fully implement.

 Will the native/sustainable grasses be irrigated?

Yes, all Naturally Thornton grass conversions will be irrigated throughout establishment. After establishment the grasses will be watered, but at vastly reduced rate than bluegrass, thus reducing water usage throughout the City.

Will the landscape be attractive?

Many people find native/sustainable grasses very attractive. These grasses change color with the seasons, sway in the wind and provide habitat for wildlife.  Standing next to and in contrast to remaining bluegrass, the native grasses enhance the natural environment while greatly reducing the overall cost of maintenance.

 Will the Naturally Thornton landscape reduce my property values?

No, this will not reduce property values. Native landscapes are standard practice across the Denver metro area and widely accepted. All indications are that properly maintained native spaces have positive impacts on property values due to the enhanced natural environment.

 Will the native/sustainable grasses be mowed?

Wherever possible the grasses will be mowed once in the fall. Native/sustainable grasses work best when they are allowed to produce seed over the summer and drop in the fall. By waiting to mow until the fall season, the grasses can go through and entire life cycle, enhancing the grass stand.

 Will native grasses catch fire?

All Naturally Thornton bluegrass conversion sites, near residential areas will be irrigated and maintained to high standards to reduce fire concerns.

 How tall are native grasses?

It depends on the grass type. Do not expect the grasses to reach a height above 2’. Many will be much shorter, depending on the location and landscape. We will strive to mix the grasses and place them in the most appropriate landscape.

 What type of grasses will I see?

Various native/sustainable and cool/warm season grasses will be planted. Soon you will see grasses such as Western Wheat, Green Needlegrass, sand dropseed, Sideoats Gramma, Buffalograss.

 How are Naturally Thornton locations and bluegrass conversion chosen?

Only passive (low use) locations will be converted from bluegrass to native/sustainable grasses. The goal is to eliminate grasses difficult to water and/or to actively recreate on. The initial locations are located in detention ponds or larger community size parks. Passive recreation will still be encouraged in native /sustainable grass locations.

 How do native/sustainable grasses reduce costs while benefiting the environment? 

Kentucky bluegrass requires extensive resources to properly maintain in our arid Front Range Colorado environment. The greatest bluegrass maintenance expense is water. Bluegrass water demands are double that of native/sustainable grasses. Water which can be used for other purposes. Bluegrass also requires extensive investments in pesticides, mowing, and fertilization, each use having negative impacts on water or air quality, while demanding staff labor time. Native/sustainable grasses and landscapes reduce or eliminate the cost of maintenance of City resources while enhancing wildlife and pollinator habitat.