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Appleton residents can skip lawn mowing next month to aid pollinators

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APPLETON – City residents don’t have to mow their lawns next month.

How that plays out with their neighbors remains to be seen.

By the narrowest of margins, the Common Council voted 8 to 7 last week to implement a “No Mow May” initiative that enables property owners to voluntarily delay lawn care during the month as a means to promote pollinator-friendly habitat in the city.

The change is for this year only.

Appleton restricts the height of grass to 8 inches on developed lots and 12 inches on undeveloped lots. Under No Mow May, the city will suspend its enforcement of the ordinance until June 1.

An earlier proposal included a two-week grace period, effectively delaying enforcement to mid-June, but the council didn’t support that.

RELATED: Appleton debates No Mow May to encourage pollinator-friendly habitat

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Alderman Alex Schultz said he hopes No Mow May will raise the awareness of environmentally friendly practices that homeowners can implement to support bees and other pollinators.

“We really have to generate enthusiasm in a communitywide discussion,” Schultz said, “and we’re not going to do that unless we take a bold step like this.”

Schultz said property owners who want to join No Mow May can register with Pollenablers-Fox Cities, which will provide participants with small yard flags to indicate their involvement in the program.

The registration process asks property owners for their address and intended level of participation, whether they plan to quit mowing for the entire month, mow less frequently, forgo the use of herbicides and pesticides, or plant flowers.

“This is completely voluntary,” Schultz said. “People maybe have a misunderstanding that this is going to be a requirement that every citizen not mow their lawn. … If you really have no desire to let your lawn grow, just keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

Alderman Matthew Reed feared the initiative would create problems between neighbors.

“It’s going to cause a lot of bad blood,” Reed said. “One of the big issues is the weed control. Thistles, dandelions, other things — they might be good for bees, but they’re also really bad for lawns. If you’ve ever stepped on a thistle, it’s not real pleasant. If you have thistles going to seed, blowing into somebody’s yard, it’s a big problem.”

Reed said the change also might aggravate allergies and contribute to an abundance of rodents like mice, voles, moles or rats that could thrive in the taller grass.

Alderwoman Cathy Spears said people who want to support pollination can plant flowers to attract bees. She said letting grass grow for a month “is just an excuse to be lazy.”

“I don’t think it’s going to go very well with the neighbors who live in my district,” she said.

The aldermen who supported the measure were Schultz, Denise Fenton, Kyle Lobner, Joe Martin, Vered Meltzer, Corey Otis, Maiyoua Thoa and Katie Van Zeeland.

The aldermen who opposed it were Reed, Spears, Patti Coenen, Christopher Croatt, Brad Firkus, William Siebers and Christine Williams.

Appleton receives the most complaints for tall grass and weeds in May and June. During the past six years, the city averaged 69 complaints in May and 85 in June.

Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or dbehnke@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.

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