Expanding the Turf Reduction Project - VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
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Expanding the Turf Reduction Project

Photo of VA GLA Director Donna Beiter accepting a check from LADWP
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Five years ago Brian Clark, a Veteran of Operation Desert Storm, was in a car accident that left him in a coma for 21 days.  He was transferred to the West LA VA Medical Center (WLA) after wakening from the coma to complete his recovery. Clark’s doctors initially informed him that it would be at least ten years before he would be able to work again – and even that was no guarantee.

“I had a wife and four kids that it was very important to me to take care of, and I couldn’t do that being on disability for the rest of my life,” Clark said. He was introduced to the Compensated Work Therapy program where he was referred to the Turf Company, a landscaping business owned and operated by Veteran John Young.

Clark was one of 20 patients in the VA Greater L.A. Healthcare System (GLA) that the Turf Company brought on to help with the WLA Turf Reduction Program, an intergovernmental xeriscaping effort that last year replaced more than 13 acres of turf (irrigated grass) on the WLA campus with drought-tolerant landscaping. Xeriscaping is a method of landscape design that promotes water conservation through a variety of methods including utilizing plants that are appropriate for the local climate and designing irrigations systems that minimize waste due to run off and evaporation.

The turf reduction initiative is funded through the Commercial/Industrial Drought-Resistant Landscape Program of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), part of that organization’s efforts to conserve water resources. GLA benefits from this no-cost program by reducing water waste and by providing Veterans with jobs and training in the landscaping industry.

The water conservation effort provided participating Veterans like Clark valuable on-the-job training, particularly in installing irrigation systems, and provided opportunities for certification in such areas as forklift operation, CPR, and OSHA 10.

In Clark’s case, the program resulted in full-time employment. “I’m proud that I have a real job; it’s just really amazing,” he said. “I’ve transformed my life and in doing that I transformed the land around here. It’s truly amazing.”

The areas targeted by the program on the WLA campus are primarily medians, parking lots, and areas where the turf was viewed as primarily decorative. The initial phase of the project, completed last August, removed 7.5 acres of turf surrounding the American Red Cross building, replacing the turf with drought-tolerant native plants.  The LADWP estimates that the VA has saved 44.5 million gallons of water from just the first phase of the project.

The second phase of the landscaping project replaced 6.11 acres of heavily watered grass with water-efficient plants in three separate areas: the turf surrounding the parking lot south of Building 500, the “beltway” of turf adjacent to West Dowlen Drive surrounding Lot 6 and the medians on Eisenhower Avenue.  LADWP has also committed to converting 15 acres at the Sepulveda campus in the near future, at locations that have yet to be determined, for a total of 30 acres of water conservation projects within GLA.

Of additional benefit to the VA's patients, the newly landscaped area featuring drought-tolerant plants native to Southern California will serve as a healing environment for patients and their families as an application of the Planetree model, promoting healing through interaction with natural spaces.

View photos of the Turf Reduction Project Second Phase Ceremony

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