Tahlequah Daily Press

August 6, 2013

Tall grass can make for unsightly city

The final in a three-part series gives tips on who to contact about green overgrowth.

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Of the asthetic issues the city of Tahlequah deals with, perhaps none is more ubiquitous than grass.

Due to a rainy mid-summer the problem may be more noticeable in 2013, as opposed to the previous couple of years when the area was gripped by drought and unusually hot temperatures.

“Last year, I wasn’t doing any vegetation upkeep,” said Charles Travis, who counts 35 acres in west Tahlequah among his property holdings. “But there has been an excessive amount of grass growth this year.”

Since grass is almost everywhere, it follows that there can be a lot of tall grass. Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said the city tries to stay on top of its lawnmowing responsibilities.

“If it is in the rights-of-way, we are responsible for it,” Nichols said. “I think we handle most of it pretty well, but sometimes an area can get away from us. In that case, we often receive a complaint and we respond to those quickly.”

Travis’ wife Nancy said the city has tried to address the couple’s grievances about grass.

“We reported tall grass at an intersection, and the city did come out and did some work to it,” she said. “Drivers couldn’t see the traffic, so I think (the city) had to do something. But in the cases of grass, most times I don’t believe it is the city’s responsibility.”

Charles Travis agreed, saying home and business owners can have the most immediate effect on unsightly weed growth.

“I work with the city as much as possible where grass is a concern, and I think they’re pretty responsive to it,” he said. “There is a lot of land to look after around here. I do my best to take care of my properties. If you don’t you get skunks, possums and other animals – tall grass brings in varmints. There are some who don’t do a very good job of keeping their lawns mowed. Some are unable to do it, but I try to help them as much as possible.”

City ordinance reads that it is unlawful for property owners to allow “weeds to grow or stand upon the premises.” Grass that is detrimental to public health, benefit or welfare, a traffic or fire hazard or endangers property is prohibited.

Ordinance calls for a 10-day notice to be given owners. Tahlequah then may undertake abatement unless there is an appeal to the city council. However, Nichols said the city is using another tactic.

“We feel like there has been more success taking the issue away from the abatement board and just writing tickets,” he said. “It seems to light a fire under a lot of property owners to take care of the grass.”

While the city may abate nuisance lawns, Nichols said those with physical limitations who need their lawns mowed will need to contact a private service.

“In 99.9 percent of cases, the law simply does not allow the city to mow private property as upkeep,” he said.

While Tahlequah will never pave itself over with concrete, and though the problem of “problem grass” will likely be persistent, Nichols said it is not an insurmountable nuisance.

“We may need to make some changes to truly conquer it,” he said. “But the upkeep of property by homeowners and business owners is vital. I wish there was some way we could get some of the more reluctant property owners to keep their lawns mowed. I think some owners are not local and consequently don’t have the desire. Others, I’m not sure what they’re thinking. But maybe if we bring more attention to the problem, it can be addressed without the city and the people pushing back against each other.”

What you said

The Daily Press polled online readers, asking if they were moving or bringing a business to Tahlequah, did they believe there were areas where the city could improve its appearance. An overwhelming majority of 78 percent, or 185 votes, strongly agreed. Thirty-three respondents, or 14 percent agreed somewhat. Seven respondents, or three percent were neutral. Nine respondents, or four percent, disagreed somewhat, and two respondents, or one percent strongly disagreed.