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Capitol Park Gets Drought-Inspired Retrofit

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

A construction crew levels dirt across what used to be a broad patch of grass on the south side of the California state Capitol building in downtown Sacramento in December 2016.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

On a recent morning, a construction crew leveled dirt across what used to be a broad swath of lawn on the south side of the Capitol building – long a popular gathering spot for rallies, protests and picnics.

“We’re installing permeable pavers on the outside of the grass,” says Brian Ferguson with California’s Department of General Services, referring to pavement that allows water to seep into the ground below. “And then we’re gonna reinstall a more native California grass in the middle so there will be a 50 percent reduction overall in the amount of grass you see on the south side of the park.”

That's one of many projects to reduce water use at the 40-acre state park, which spans 12 square blocks of downtown Sacramento.

In addition to draining the Capitol fountain and trout pond, the state let a lot of grass die during the drought.

Now, it’s removed 75,000 square feet of grass – just under two acres – and replaced it with decomposed granite or mulch.

“We hope it serves an example to Californians of what they can do in their own front yards by what we’re doing in the state’s front yard.”

Only 15 percent of the grass will be removed. The rest must stay to preserve the hundreds of species of trees and plants from throughout the world. But the state will eventually water the entire Capitol Park with recycled water – once a pipeline is built in the next few years.