Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Participating In “No Mow May” Will Require Registration

Ald. Dimitrijevic leads Milwaukee in adopting bee-friendly program.

By - Mar 23rd, 2023 02:23 pm
Houses on the 2900 block of S. 11th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Houses on the 2900 block of S. 11th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Are you planning to participate in No Mow May? You’ll need to register in Milwaukee, or risk a fine for having grass that is too tall.

“So why, you may ask, do people choose proactively not to mow their lawn in May? Not because they want to create a nuisance or be problematic, in fact, they want to positively create the best habitat or foraging area for our favorite pollinator, the bees,” said Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic to the Public Safety & Health Committee on March 7.

No Mow May started in England as an effort to create a better habitat for bees emerging from hibernation. A study of lawns in the United States found that flowering weeds, such as dandelions and white clover, support a wide diversity of bees.

Appleton, in 2020, was the first city in the U.S. to adopt the initiative formally. A total of 435 homes were registered in the inaugural year. Several other Wisconsin cities, including Greenfield and De Pere, have formally adopted no-mow regulations.

The current Milwaukee tall grass and noxious weeds ordinance sets the max grass height at seven inches. An initial violation comes with a $50 fine, with a failure to mow after a citation punishable with a $100 fine and a special charge for mowing. The fine increases to $150 for additional offenses. Enforcement is primarily complaint-driven, but a Department of Public Works (DPW) representative said they intend to survey the participating Milwaukee homes in the second week of June to ensure grass was trimmed down to acceptable levels.

Dimitrijevic said Milwaukee was following the structure of other cities in not completely suspending enforcement of the ordinance in May. “This is more of a pilot for those that want to opt in,” said the alderwoman. “It will be interesting to see who chooses to sign up.” She said she proposed the program, with the support of Legislative Reference Bureau staffer Alex Highley, at the request of a number of constituents. She attempted to do so last year, but the proposal was introduced too late.

Participants will need to register annually and display a sign.

Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa praised Dimitrijevic’s commitment for environmental justice initiatives and signed on as a co-sponsor. Ald. Jonathan Brostoff signed on as a co-sponsor when the council voted to adopt the measure March 21.

“We are in full support of the No Mow May,” said (DPW) forestry services manager Randy Krouse. He said the registration and signage would be helpful, both to reduce complaints and to understand what lawns are to be mowed once the calendar turns to June.

Ald. Scott Spiker said he was concerned about various side effects of the signage component, including the need for it to communicate what the program is, the potential for abuse and the need for the city to avoid bearing the cost of printing thousands of signs for a program he expected to grow. “I like programs, but I like them paid for as well,” said the alderman. Dimitrijevic modified the proposal to shift the sign printing to the responsibility of the resident. An outside group could step in to provide signs or a template.

Only one council member voted against the initiative.

“I’m just not there,” said Ald. Mark Borkowski, expressing concern that his constituents might react negatively to those not mowing. “I get the whole thing as far as what we want to do, the pollination, etc. I’m not sure that constituents and next-door neighbors totally understand [it].” He said the informal 2022 program “didn’t look good,” but said he hoped signage could help.

The program was adopted Tuesday and DPW has yet to formally launch the application process.

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