Street medians may be intended to divide, but the City’s Parks Division is optimistic that renovations of several medians will improve roads for both residents and visitors while saving water and creating more sustainable plantings.

“The newly renovated medians are going to be easier to maintain and have a better appearance than the existing conditions,” says Parks Manager Steve Carpenter.

Seven stretches of medians are undergoing renovations on West Jewell Avenue, Kipling Street, Pierce Street, Wadsworth Boulevard and Bear Creek Boulevard. The renovations, funded at City Council’s direction in the City’s budget two years ago, are expected to be completed by mid-November, with further plantings finished in the spring.

The median renovations fit into the broader goals of the Parks Division by reducing watering needed to maintain the plants, minimizing mowing requirements and creating appealing street landscaping, says Urban Parks Supervisor Jerry Spawn. The reduced watering and mowing will lower the overall maintenance required for the medians.

Conditions on the medians are harsh because sand from snowplowing operations gets tossed on to the plants, and hot conditions during the summer take a toll, says Carpenter, leaving the plants with a life span of only about 15 years before they need to be reworked.

“For several years now, we have been rehabilitating medians that have over-matured and have improperly planted species,” Carpenter says, with the City working toward medians with sustainable xeric or drought-tolerant plantings. Species that can handle the harsh Colorado climate include herbaceous plants, native grasses, succulents and ground cover varieties.

The average renovation lasts between two and three weeks, and Spawn says the crews consider a number of factors to “achieve a balance of maintenance requirements and water needs while keeping the design aesthetically pleasing.”

While the emphasis is on drought-tolerant plants, designs can include trees and shrubs when appropriate to help create a barrier between traffic lanes and when the species won’t grow into nearby power lines.

Part of the renovations included removing 27 ash trees as a preventative measure against the emerald ash borer – an invasive species from Asia capable of killing ash trees. “All will be replaced with a more desirable species,” says Spawn, noting that “overall, more trees are being planted than were removed.”

While some residents have expressed disappointment with the removal of traditional plantings that can create sound and visual barriers on the medians, Carpenter is optimistic about the overall impact of the renovations. “Generally, I think when people are seeing the finished product, they are not disappointed. I know I am not. I think the medians look 100 percent better.”