The Suncoast/Starkey bicycle trail is probably one of the most, if not the most, user-friendly trail in the United States, one can go 33 miles without crossing a road starting from Starkey Wilderness Park or State Road 54. Hernando County can take well-deserved pride in maintaining the beauty of their part of the trail and its surroundings so I was amazed last winter to see them seemingly carelessly overlaying the trail sides with the most disreputable, apparently dead, scraggly grass imaginable; surely they were making a bad landscaping mistake!
Incredibly, this mess sprang into beautiful verdant borders for the trail when the rains came in the spring; the scraggly grass was the Rodney Dangerfield of lawn grasses, Bahia grass; it gets no respect.
The Florida Statutes have, sort of, addressed the problem of water management in Title XXVIII, Chapter 373, 185, Local Florida-friendly landscaping ordinances, paragraph (I), (b): "Florida-friendly landscaping means quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant."
The ordinance is careful not to mention Bahia grass, ideal under the terms of the chapter; Bahia is derisively termed "pasture grass" by lawn maintenance companies. Some say that it is a special diet attraction for mole crickets although these critters do a pretty good job on untreated Floratam as well. Some say it dies out after three years. Not true. I have had a small patch in my yard for years. It comes roaring back as good as ever in the spring. True, the long seed stalks are a minor nuisance but mowing takes care of them. The beneficial nature of Bahia is seen in the neat, virtually maintenance-free medial strips of our highways.
The Florida-friendly ordinance dances around local ordinances, including homeowner association bylaws. It states: "Homeowners associations must follow the state statute which says they cannot prevent a homeowner from implementing a Florida-friendly landscape. They (homeowner associations) are permitted, however, to enforce restrictions which maintain the style of the neighborhood."
Wow! The last sentence destroys any credibility of the statutes. (What on earth is meant by "style?") Association managers are left in a quandary. Are they now in noncompliance if their covenants prohibit planting Bahia grass, apparently the ideal cover under the wording of the statute?
The quixotic, though well-intentioned, Florida-friendly statute may very well become another wishful thinking law like the leash law, weed law (weeds cannot be over 12 inches in height) and the sign law that says signs must be 5 feet from county-owned roadways.
Charles Huhtanen lives in west Pasco.