Scissortail Garden, a gardening cornerstone and thriving public space in the heart of Oklahoma City, isn’t just an oasis for humans; It is also a sanctuary for flora and fauna thanks to innovative smart irrigation strategies. Provides a snapshot of how communities can benefit from their green spaces serving the people who live and work in the area. Using smart irrigation to make communities more livable isn’t something that’s happening just in the United States, according to Doug Loftus, associate marketing program director at rain birds. Loftus says parks and playgrounds from Doha, Qatar, to Tucson, Arizona, are harnessing the benefits of smart irrigation to make their communities thrive.
How smart irrigation can be the foundation of a livable community
Lance Swearingen, director of horticulture and land at Scissortail Garden In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, he says the park’s unique approach to landscape management intertwines smart watering strategies that support the park’s original purpose.
“The area the park is built on was formerly an industrial area south of the downtown core,” Swearingen says. “Part of the city center rehabilitation through maps project – a penny sales tax – built the park. Part of that was renovating downtown, bringing people back downtown and connecting the downtown core to the Oklahoma City River shore. At the bottom of our lower park, we have the Oklahoma River, so the park is really a connection.”
The garden spans 70 acres with two main areas, an upper garden and a lower garden, each with two unique irrigation solutions.
“We have a big lake, I think about six acres fed by an aquifer, and then we irrigate from it for 36 acres in the upper garden,” Swearingen says. “The lower garden is connected to the city’s water.”
The lawn section, which spans about 25 acres, has a more common variety of Bermuda grass in the lower park, while the upper park hosts a different type of Bermuda. The upper garden cultivar grows laterally rather than vertically, which reduces the need for frequent mowing and contributes to garden conservation efforts.
When it comes to the console itself, both systems are managed by a smart console which allows for a great deal of flexibility and time savings as adjustments can be made from a desk or smartphone. Swearingen says this flexibility can really make a difference given the complexities of running a space like Scissortail Park.
Swearingen highlights the challenge the garden faces in managing irrigation around the various events and high traffic the garden experiences. The need to avoid wet meadows during events requires careful strategy in managing the irrigation of turf areas. Damage to irrigation infrastructure is frequent, as irrigation heads need regular replacement.
“We have golf carts that run on the ground, we have contractors on the ground and we regularly get damaged corners of the fairways that we have to manage regularly,” he says.
The appeal of smart irrigation isn’t limited to local sites like Scissortail Park. With the right application and implementation, Loftus says, its impact can extend to a global scale. This is evident in how smart irrigation technologies are being adopted in some of the world’s most visible locations, similar to the way local parks are changing their landscapes.
Scissortail Park’s watering strategy extends beyond the water that comes out of the sprinkler heads. It hosts an intricate network of French drains and water gardens designed to filter surface water back into the lake, effectively reusing it. The park’s network of biowalls and downdrafts serve as practical applications for water conservation efforts.
Swearingen emphasizes the park’s mission to create a downtown habitat, restoring ecosystems and promoting green practices. This commitment to sustainability and community rejuvenation is demonstrated through the garden’s irrigation system and conscious efforts to conserve and reuse water.
“Water conservation is a big issue in the garden,” he says. “Part of our mission is to create a downtown habitat, bring back the wildlife, bring back the ecosystem and create an urban forest. We can’t have beautiful parks and gardens without a great irrigation system. That’s really the foundation of a good public park. So it’s good to be a part of that and help make the city a better place.”