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Local cities split as more Wisconsin communities embrace “No Mow May”

Jane Witmer pulls the electric cord for her mower along behind her as she mows her lawn...
Jane Witmer pulls the electric cord for her mower along behind her as she mows her lawn Wednesday, April 14, 2010, in Seattle.(Elaine Thompson | AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 4:40 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 4:30 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - More Wisconsin communities are encouraging residents to keep their lawnmowers in the garage next month to boost the population of bees and other pollinators.

Appleton became the first city to adopt the “No Mow May” initiative a couple years ago and others have followed. This year, the initiative has spread even further, to La Crosse, Wisconsin Rapids and De Pere.

The idea is to give homeowners the option of letting their lawns become a bit overgrown for a few weeks to ensure that bees that are coming out of hibernation have plenty of options for the nectar and pollen they need.

Cities temporarily waive enforcement of ordinances that require homeowners to maintain their lawns.

Some of the larger southern Wisconsin cities, on the other hand, are split on whether or not to embrace their residents letting their lawns grow.

Cities in Southern Wisconsin

Sun Prairie’s city council adopted a resolution in late March that would suspend enforcement of its lawn regulations that set an eight-inch cap on grass length for the month of May. Additional guidelines must be set, and residents must register ahead of time. Organizations and businesses must get approval because of the potentially large lawns they may manage. The city issued a reminder of the regulations last week as it highlighted its Earth Month activities.

Cross Plains not only suspended enforcement of its lawn regulations for the month, it will also offer residents signs to promote the initiative. The signs can be obtained, for a donation, at the Village Office, at 2417 Brewery Road.

“No Mow May helps to highlight the importance of pollinators for the environment and food crops in the presence of a global insect decline,” the city wrote on its website.

Verona will also allow residents to let their their grass grow. This is the second year city leaders are participating and, like Cross Plains, signs will be made available. The signs are available at the city hall, 111 Lincoln Street, and must be checked out and returned. Residents are also invited to make their own signs.

The only caveat Verona mentions is a suggestion to “not letting your grass get too tall for your mower as it can be difficult to mow it on June 1.” More information is available on the city’s website.

The Operations Director for the city of Janesville, Maggie Darr, confirmed that the city did not adopt a “No Mow May” policy. Janesville’s grass height limit of 12 inches remains in effect throughout the month, she said, adding that that the city will enforce that regulation. Darr clarified that enforcement is not proactive and they will only do so after receiving complaints.

She also pointed out that the city has over 1,000 acres of green space, saying, “I think it’s fair to say we’re participating in No Mow May.” While that land will not be mowed, she assured that parklands and medians still will.

Beloit, too, will keep its standard grass and weed length rules in place, City spokesperson Sarah Lock said. She went on to caution that “long weeds and grasses attract nuisances such as disease-carrying rodents and snakes.”

Lock noted that the city does offer residents year-round opportunities for native plantings, provided they comply with an approved land management plan.

NBC15 News reached out to the City of Madison about its policy come May. We have since been referred to another department within the city and resubmitted the question. This story will be updated with its reply.

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