After a recent water main project on the 800 block of South Euclid left parkways dug up and grassless, a couple of homeowners asked the village for something other than replacement sod.

While the Oak Park doesn’t have an official program, says Bill McKenna, civil engineer, the village does allow residents to choose alternatives to grass – with certain limitations. For the same amount of money the village would have spent on sod, residents can choose alternative plants such as ivy or hosta or some other mix of perennials.

A list of plants is provided or the homeowner can, with approval, purchase something else and get reimbursed.

The plants should be drought-, shade- and salt-tolerant, McKenna says, and they can’t grow higher than 36 inches. Line-of-sight issues are the main concern. So tall prairie plants are frowned on.

“We prefer no food crops,” McKenna says, “or thorns.” Most of the residents who inquire are already experienced gardeners, he notes, so they tend to choose well. “It’s an informal setup, and we hope to keep it that way,” he says. Though it’s more management-intensive for the village, it makes sense for some homeowners, depending on their particular conditions.

They don’t go out of their way to publicize the option, however. If the village gets too many requests, they’ll need to develop a more specific code to govern it. At the moment there is no ordinance preventing homeowners from planting flowers on their parkways, but the village only pays if it follows one of their capital projects. The only restriction is height.

“We don’t want a tunnel effect,” McKenna says, “and we don’t want plants flopping into the street.”

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