Evanston’s City Council decided this week not to get on board with the “No Mow May” campaign designed to promote pollinating insects.

At the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Ald. Devon Reid (8th) proposed modifying a contract with a landscaping company scheduled to mow Butler, Harbert and Twiggs parks to start in June rather than May to support the “No Mow May” campaign.

No Mow May” is promoted by an organization called Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The concept originated in the United Kingdom. Reportedly it was first adopted in the U.S. in 2020 by Appleton, Wisconsin, and has since spread to more than two dozen other communities, several of them in northeast Wisconsin, as well as in Minnesota and Maine.

Interim Deputy City Manager Dave Stoneback told the Administration and Public Works Committee that a lack of early-season mowing in 2019 because of rainy conditions led to many complaints from residents — especially from people renting picnic shelters.

And, in a memo to the Council, Acting Public Works Director Edgar Cano said grass would likely grow six to 10 inches tall in May if it wasn’t mowed, and that would lead to problems with pests and rodents harboring in the tall grass and invasive weeds like dandelions growing to seed.

In addition, he said, it would mean soccer fields in two of the parks would go un-mowed.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said he’d be open to considering changing the contract next year but wanted to move forward with planned mowing next month.

And Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said the parks scheduled for mowing are programmed with events, so the plans shouldn’t be changed for this year.

The mowing contract ultimately was approved by the full City Council on its consent agenda.

Pollinators — including many native bee species — are facing catastrophic declines, and a New York Times report says that if the weeds in lawns are allowed to flower, they can provide rare spring food for bees emerging from hibernation.

Towns endorsing the no-mow concept suspend — for May — rules that require property owners to keep their lawns mowed or face property standards violation fines.

The issue before the City Council this week didn’t address what residents could do with their own lawns, and it’s not clear whether the city might suspend — for the month of May — enforcement of its ordinance that limit the height of weeds to no more than eight inches.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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