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Electric mowers propel APRC toward green goals

Photo courtesy of Sean Sullivan | Bill Miller, parks maintenance supervisor, operates one of Ashland Parks and Recreation’s new electric mowers.

Ashland park visitors may have noticed new electric mowers maintaining the city’s landscapes — the latest action taken as part of the Ashland Parks and Recreation environmental sustainability and implementation goal, ranked second for priority in the current biennial budget.

Three electric mowers replaced diesel mowers used to maintain manicured parks and the golf course, funded out of a $150,000 allocation in the capital improvements program budget to purchase equipment with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In all, three electric mowers, accessories and delivery to Ashland cost $86,424, according to APRC Director Michael Black.

“The bottom line for us is we’re trying to do our part in moving Ashland Parks and Recreation toward more sustainable maintenance practices,” Black said. “This is the first opportunity that we’ve had to replace some of our bigger equipment with electric motors and to make what we think is a bigger step or even a leap toward a greener APRC.”

Other projects under consideration for the remainder of the allocation include transitioning city buildings from gas furnaces to electric, he said.

While the electric mower transition is intended to reduce the department’s overall carbon footprint and offer staff an opportunity to become acquainted with emerging technologies as more equipment converts to electric, other benefits include potential water savings, Black said.

The electric mowers are “superior” to the old diesel machines, he said, because of specific features, such as a touch screen with the ability to raise and lower the deck to adapt to each site, without needing to take the equipment into the shop to be adjusted. Water intake capacity depends on the depth to which grass is mowed, he said.

Water savings for lawns and grass landscapes hinges on the efficacy of irrigation techniques, and a lawn’s drought resistance can be improved by setting the mowing height to at least 3 inches for cool-season grasses and at least 1.5 inches for warm-season grasses, according to the University of California Center for Landscape & Urban Horticulture.

APRC’s diesel mowers had all exceeded a six-year standard lifecycle — by 17 years in one case, according to the June 1 Parks Commission staff report. The replacement cost for one diesel mower of a similar model was estimated at $25,000.

Parks staff arranged with the electric mower manufacturer a demonstration of its 72-inch model May 20, followed by a week of testing the model in June. The 72-inch model costs $34,499 and the 60-inch model costs $25,549, not including optional accessories. The electric mowers last all day and charge overnight, Black said.

“They’re quiet as well, so if you’re in the park, it’s not as obnoxious when the mowers come around,” he said. “We’re using them, we’re excited to have them and think they’re going to make a good addition to our fleet.”

Commissioner Julian Bell pointed to the possibility of fewer miles being driven by parks staff searching for a place to mow without bothering visitors as a supplemental benefit of switching to electric mowers.

“APRC is obliged to try and make its own efforts to improve its greenhouse gas emissions, but I also think that it has the potential to provide some leadership for the city,” Bell said. “The city has done a lot of things to try and improve its sustainability efforts, but this is committing to investing in more concrete greenhouse gas reduction devices.”

Reach reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.