The city of Loris is taking the old phrase “the grass is greener on the other side” to a whole new level as the city is in the works of giving the grass at the Loris recreational fields a new look.
Loris's recreation department, along with assistance from the Clemson University Extension for Horticulture, are in the process of replacing the current grass with Bermuda grass exclusively, with hopes the fields will be fully remodeled by summer 2022. The makeover is expected to save the city money and make the city's fields look more uniform.
Loris City Clerk Keith Massey said the city has put an emphasis on the clay used at the baseball fields for the past two years. Massey said it was time to shift focus to the grass.
“With all the work we’ve done out there in trying to keep our recreation facilities to a certain level and carry to a next level, you had to start looking at the grass,” Massey said.
There were several issues pertaining to the grass’ condition, which led to the beginning of the transition process, he said.
“We had to do something,” Massey said. “We were having sandspurs, stickers and stuff in the outfield and that’s just not good for kids to be out there trying to slide and get sandspurs in their legs.”
City leaders reached out to Clemson Extension roughly a month ago to begin the transition process.
Christopher Burtt, urban horticulture extension agent and master gardener coordinator with Clemson Extension, described his duty in the project as providing technical support.
“[Loris] is trying to rework and replant their grass in order to create a more uniform plot,” Burtt said. “That way they can have it look a little more professional.”
Burtt added a goal of his is to provide as much guidance and expertise that he can during the process so the city can achieve its goal as quickly as possible, and without damaging the environment and the city’s wallet.
When it comes to recreational turf, Burtt said the grass needs to be the hardiest species. Currently, the recreational fields are mixture of different grass species.
“[They have] lots of different weed species,” Burtt said. “They have a little bit of centipede grass in there as well. The city wants to clean up the weed species that take away from the aesthetics and reintroduce Bermuda species to create more of a uniform monoculture.”
Having that uniform monoculture makes it a lot easier to care for, especially with the usage that happens at the recreation fields, Burtt said.
“Recreational fields put a lot of pressure on the grass itself,” Burtt said. “The pressure that’s put on it is obviously when you have grass that is walked on, run on, dug up, essentially that physical pressure damage that can happen from being under the foot of a person. We cause soil compaction, damage to the leaf tissue, damage to the roots every time we move around.”
Bermuda grass is used for recreational fields because it’s recovery process from being damaged is the quickest, Burrt said.
“It’s one of the fastest growing grasses,” Burtt said. “But one of the problems is that you flip that around and because it’s so quick in recovery, it needs a little more care, especially when it has to recover constantly.”
A hiccup that has come into play when planting the grass is that it's currently not the best time to be planting a warm-season type of turf grass, which Bermuda is considered. Burtt said the city’s next move is to plant a cool-season turf grass such as an annual ryegrass in order to make it all one species.
“They are going to terminate the weed species currently there,” Burtt said. “They’re going to try to keep as much of the Bermuda as possible but kill off the weed species that are there and basically replant the whole thing with annual ryegrass.”
The ryegrass is a great substitute for the time-being since it will last until April or May and then it will decline, making way for the city to plant the Bermuda grass, Burtt said.
While now might not be the best time to make the transition, the process was going to take several months regardless, Massey added.
“When you go out there and look at these fields, some outfields are better than others,” Massey said. “Our outfields are about 60 percent weeds. So after speaking with the Clemson Extension and seeing our situation, it’s best to go ahead and do it now anyway because of when you put chemicals on a certain kind of weed, they’re going to turn brown and die.”
Massey said the next step will be sowing winter ryegrass. With the killing of the weeds, it will allow the winter ryegrass to come up much quicker and cover the area better.
“It’s actually the right place and the right time,” Massey said.
When it comes to how hard this will hit the city’s budget, Burtt said the extended timeline currently mapped out is a huge money saver.
“We can have this perfect next week,” Burtt said. “But it would probably cost a couple hundred thousand dollars. You’re talking about a lot of sod required.”
The cost for the months-long makeover will be no more than $2,000 — right now. But the city has budgeted $5,500 for the project's maintenance and grounds repairs.
“Even by doing this, we are going to continue to come under budget,” Massey said.
While the recreational makeover may cause some headaches when spring leagues begin in early 2022, Massey said tournament directors are looking forward to the changes that are being made.
“They’re excited to see what we’ve already done so they trust us,” Massey said. “We brought our facilities to this point. Doing this, they feel that we’re going to hit the nail on the head, achieve our goal and they’re ready the journey with us. They didn’t have any questions or concerns at all.”