Douglas County Regional Parks – Turf Alternatives

As a case study we will examine the new design and construction (for purposes of comparison) of the Douglas County Fairgrounds Regional Park located in Castle Rock, CO, and look at the amendments that were made to the Master Plan that was developed in the mid 1990’s. These changes were made to the design template in the final master plan that was developed in 2003 and constructed between July 2003 and August 2005 and reflect the new philosophy in design that Douglas County is now using.


Bluegrass turf. For these zones we used an 80% bluegrass 20% fescue blend commonly used in this area. These were zones of high athletic use and sustained pedestrian traffic. We felt that the irrigated bluegrass would best stand up to the constant use, and recover the fastest with the least amount of labor, in those areas where more water conserving turf types would stress or die under the constant pressure and wear from pedestrian or athletic use. These areas included; existing baseball/softball fields, areas around picnic shelters, playgrounds, transitions and seating areas around synthetic turf fields, and entry areas. These zones are the most labor and material intensive, and we have tried to keep these areas to a minimum, or where necessary to accommodate extensive pedestrian traffic. These areas are mowed and/or fertilized two to three times per week throughout the growing season.

The original master plan had 100% of the turf areas in Fairgrounds Regional Park as irrigated bluegrass turf; the final plans have cut that amount to approximately 40% of the total turfed areas.


Synthetic turf. Douglas County has taken a very aggressive approach on the installation of synthetic turf within our park system. The synthetic turf is used as an athletic field surfacing only, and has been a big hit with both our users and maintenance staff. While I do not believe that synthetic turf is the end all be all of the parks and recreation profession, I do believe that it does function exceptionally well as a surfacing for over programmed athletic fields. Douglas County installed over 5 acres of synthetic turf on this project. This acreage accounts for three full sized (football/soccer) multi-use fields. Two of these fields are lighted and scheduled twelve months of the year.

While these fields are not NO MAINTENANCE the worked needed to keep these fields in a safe, playable conditions for the fields sports (soccer, rugby, football, lacrosse) has been substantially reduced, no mowing, no fertilizer, and the water use is at zero. We do sweep and drag these fields once a month, but the time needed to do so is much less than to mow the same area.

The synthetic turf fields account for approximately 20% of the turfed area of the park.

An interesting sidelight of the installation of the synthetic turf is, that by taking all of the field sport play off of the bluegrass fields, it has allowed those fields to recover at a much faster rate and with less maintenance and water than was needed when field sport play was going on the bluegrass fields. It now takes our maintenance staff less time and a lot less water to keep our bluegrass turf baseball/softball fields in great condition than it did in the past when field play was programmed on those fields.


Douglas County Low-Growth Mix: In those zones that were very visible to the public but had little to no foot traffic, Douglas County developed a low growing (3” – 6”) turf mix. This mix will provide an aesthetically pleasing low maintenance turf in those very visible areas. This mix will require mowing only 2 –3 times per year and irrigation was installed throughout this zone to aid in the establishment of the turf and/or to supplement natural water if necessary. The irrigation is for the establishment period only, and we expect to be using little to no irrigation by next year (three year establishment period). In this zone weeds are eradicated by hand (spot spraying or mechanical means) as necessary. This is somewhat labor intensive at the beginning of the project, but labor time should diminish over the years as the turf becomes more established.

The mix was developed specifically for Douglas County, but may work in other areas and regions of the country.

This turf area is approximately 15% of the total turf area of the Fairgrounds Regional Park

Douglas County Low-Growth Seeding Mix

Species Variety % in Mix PLS#/Ac.

Buffalograss Texoka 20 3.2

Blue Grama Hachita 20 0.6


Wheatgrass Arriba 20 3.2

Sideoats Grama Vaughn 20 1.8


Wheatgrass Critana 10 1.0

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