By MICHAEL MELIA
HARTFORD, Conn. (CBS Connecticut and AP) – To Maggie Redfern, her all-natural front yard is a rebuke to the chemical-soaked, manicured lawns of suburban America. To some of her neighbors in New London, Connecticut, it’s an eyesore.
Ordered by the city’s blight officer to cut back overgrowth, Redfern is challenging local ordinances in a case that has rallied like-minded conservationists.
At a city hearing on her appeal this week, her supporters held signs that read: “Hell no we won’t mow.”
“I think this is a growing movement that a lot of people are becoming aware of,” Redfern said in an interview Wednesday. “My hope is we can spread the word to encourage other people to help the environment.”
The issue was professional for her until it became personal.
Redfern, an assistant director at the Connecticut College arboretum, organizes an annual conference there on the Smaller American Lawns Today movement. The campaign was launched in the 1990s by a college botany professor to help restore lawns to more natural landscapes.
The front yard of Redfern’s home where she’s lived for nearly two years is filled mainly by fescue grass along with trees, shrubs and a pollinator garden. She said she does not let just anything grow and regularly removes noxious weeds, including mugwort and bittersweet.
She said she thinks her yard looks good compared to other lawns and it is better ecologically.
“With what we have learned about the natural world there is really a good case for not using fossil fuels and pesticides and clean drinking water to have a short lawn,” she said.
The property came under city scrutiny after a next-door neighbor complained about the height of the hedges at the property line. City blight officer Kenyon Haye listened to her explanations for keeping the yard the way she did, but ultimately issued a letter directing that all plant overgrowth be cut back to 10 inches (25.4 centimeters). The city code leaves exceptions for cultivated flowers.
“My job is to enforce the laws on the books,” Haye said Thursday. “My personal preferences aren’t weighed in.”
At the hearing Tuesday on Redfern’s appeal, several supporters with signs were in attendance, The Day of New London reported. An official with the city’s Conservation Commission said the panel was open to the idea of updating the maintenance code to leave room for naturalistic landscapes.
The hearing officer said he expected to have a decision on the case within a week.
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