Bend Couple, City Spar Over Artificial Grass Along River

- Jul 04, 2018-

Couple fights for artificial grass in backyard

BEND, Ore. - Ray and Jacalyn Haworth are in a dispute with the city of Bend over artificial grass in their backyard.

From the Haworths' perspective, it's a non-toxic fix to a damaged lawn. On the other hand, the city doesn't believe it aligns with the city's plan to maintain a natural habitat along the river. 

The Haworths moved to Bend in 1992. They've lived in the same house on Northwest Riverfront Street for 25 years. In 2017, they installed artificial turf in their backyard. 

But, it is within an area of what the city has dubbed a "water overlay zone" along the Deschutes River. 

"We had no idea there was a WOZ area," Jacalyn said Monday. "I mean, we have probably been here longer than any residents on the river and we didn't even know when this happened."

In 2007, the Haworths installed a pickleball court and waterfront dock. According to the city, the dock was built along a riparian corridor without permission. 

In 2015, the city told the Haworths the dock had to be taken out, but doing so tore up the lawn beneath it. 

"It was not a beautiful lawn to begin with, because of the rough and tear kind of way we live, with all the boats coming in," Jacalyn said.

Because of frequent visitors, the damage from the dock and a large pine tree, the Haworths were limited with where they could plant grass and maintain it. 

"I'm too old to plant new grass here," Ray said. "I wanted this to be the rest of my life right here."

For the Haworths, artificial turf was an innocent fix to the lawn. 

"We didn't feel like we were taking anything out, and we didn't take out any shrubbery or anything," Jacalyn said. "We basically had a lawn that was ruined, and I read about this artificial grass, and it said it was porous and non-toxic."

The city believes the turf is not compatible with maintaining the natural habitat along the river. 

According to city documents, the Haworths' property is a prime spot for riparian restoration. The city wants to balance private property rights, the greater good of the community and the environment. 

"In the area within 30 feet of the river, we like to have those areas restored to more natural vegetation for wildlife habitat," said city Senior Planner Aaron Henson. 

This habitat includes ducks, geese and beavers. A natural habitat also helps filter stormwater and catch pollutants from people's yards before it runs into the rivers. 

"I think what we are hoping now is that through some negotiations we could extend (the) dirt area that's right along the water (...) and put deciduous plants in there," Jacalyn said.

For the Haworths, their backyard is a home for neighbors, family and children who come over every weekend to spend time together.

The Bend Planning Commission was expected to make a decision on the turf issue Monday, evening. But with two few members on hand to decide the matter, the decision date was pushed back to early July.