The city of Ashland is offering money to people who replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping, pavers or permeable artificial turf.
Launched this month, the program is meant to reduce watering of thirsty lawns as Ashland faces drought and water curtailment measures this summer.
"It's gotten people's attention given the drought situation we're facing," said Ashland Conservation Analyst Julie Silverman, who has begun guiding interested residents through the conversion process.
The city is offering 75 cents per square foot for the first 1,000 square feet of lawn that is replaced. The incentive is 50 cents per square foot for replacement projects up to 2,000 square feet, and 25 cents per square foot for projects up to 3,000 square feet.
As a pilot project before the official launch of the lawn replacement program, Clinton Street resident Donald Hunsaker converted his water-guzzling front lawn to wood mulch dotted with boulders and attractive drought-resistant plants such as heather and ornamental bunch grasses.
"I see neighbors walking by and saying to each other, 'We should do it!' They come back and take pictures," said Hunsaker, who teaches earth science at Southern Oregon University and geography at Rogue Community College.
Because of limited water supplies anticipated this summer, the city is now asking residents who take part in the lawn replacement program to hold off on planting drought-tolerant species until October.
New plants typically require more watering until they get established. Residents can go ahead and remove their lawns, though, after getting project approval.
In order to qualify for the financial incentives, people must first get approval from the city as well as any homeowners' association boards or codes, covenants and restrictions boards in their neighborhood.
The city urges people not to start killing or removing their lawns before winning those approvals if they want to take part in the program.
Hunsaker said he expected resistance from his homeowners' association, but the association's landscape committee and board approved the project.
His front lawn was relatively small and already bordered a common area with wood mulch and boulders. With its ornamental grasses and other plants already growing well, his made-over front yard blends in with the neighborhood. Close to his house, Hunsaker kept shade-loving ferns and a rhododendron bush that were already there.
Slate stones with permeable gravel and low-growing thyme mark a path along the house.
Hunsaker said it had always felt odd and artificial to have a front lawn when he could see the dry, natural slopes of Grizzly Peak in the distance.
"You're fighting against nature," he said.
Ashland-based Regenesis Ecological Design designed and carried out the landscaping changes.
The city has various requirements for the lawn replacement program, including:
For more information, see ashland.or.us/LRP or contact Smitherman at 541-552-2062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.