In July, a controlled burning at a small plot of land took place to begin the restoration. Fire plays a major role in the health of natural landscapes like grasslands by discouraging woody plants and non-native species from the site.
Cummins Power Generation’s manufacturing facility in Fridley, Minn., is returning parts of its grounds to their native prairie state, potentially reducing water and fertilizer use.
A grass burning took place in July in space that will become a small prairie as part of a pilot project at the site. Another area by a new test cell will also be seeded with prairie grass this fall.
Fridley Plant Manager Miguel Kindler has a passion for the environment and water conservation, and this initiative had his immediate support, said Xue Feng, the Senior Environmental Engineer who is leading the project.
“By doing this, not only will we be saving on water and fertilizer usage, and their corresponding environmental impact, but we will be reintroducing several dozen Minnesota native plants to our grounds,” Kindler said.
“In addition, and due to the great variety of these plants, we will also benefit from the scenery of various flower types for various months of the year,” he added.
About 15,000 square feet on the west side of the Fridley plant, between two parking lots, have been burned and seeded with prairie grass. Prescribed burning is a standard method of ecological restoration.
Feng estimates the plant will save 270,000 gallons of water and $1,200 in mowing and fertilizer costs per year from the pilot – and that’s just 7 percent of the total lawn area at Fridley.
Murphy Companies, the warehousing and logistics firm that shares a site with Cummins manufacturing facility in Fridley, has a combined 14 acres of native prairies across four locations. After comparing their costs of prairie grass versus maintaining a lawn, Murphy discovered that a manicured lawn costs seven times more to maintain than native prairie plants.
And they say there are numerous environmental benefits. Native prairie requires no watering, or significantly less water in very dry seasons. No fertilization is required, and roots are deep, assisting in storm water infiltration.
After the pilot phase, Fridley site leaders will wait one year and gather feedback from employees and neighbors before determining the next steps of the restoration project.
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