When is a Lawn Dangerous? Replanting the Grand Canyon

The National Park Service is removing the non-native grasses planted in the 1960s and 1970s to reduce water use and discourage non-native elk from grazing.
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The lawn at El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon Village. Photo by Whit Richardson

The lawn at El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon Village. Photo by Whit Richardson

The planting season began early in 2015 in the Grand Canyon as park landscaping crews worked to re-cover the uprooted lawns of the park's lodges.

Non-Native Grasses Require Too Much Water and Attract Unwelcome Wildlife

In September 2014, the National Park Service began removing the non-native grasses that made up these bodies of green. Many of the lawns were planted with Kentucky Bluegrass in the 1960s and 1970s. The yards have been torn up as part of a long-term plan to replant the areas with native vegetation, as the yards of Grand Canyon Village have been.

Its removal was hastened by the increase of non-native Rocky Mountain elk in the Grand Canyon. The animals, introduced to the Flagstaff area between 1913 and 1929, have slowly migrated to the South Rim looking for new supplies of food and water.

Although park visitors enjoy seeing the elk, their curiosity often gets the best of them, leading to potentially dangerous encounters that require park staff intervention. The elk gatherings around the lawns of El Tovar and other lodges located near the rim pose an especially pertinent threat.

Rocky Mountain Elk Grazing on Grass can be Dangerous

"Visitors are naturally attracted to elk, and often approach too closely or place themselves directly in the path of elk that are foraging on the lawns," Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga told Grand Canyon News. "Elk have become habituated to these lawns, making them dangerous and unpredictable. Although elk can give the impression of being tame, they can quickly become aggressive when protecting their food and water sources, their young, and during the fall rutting season."

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