Here’s a sample of the “thatch-and-thin” blades that will cover a portion of the of lawn on Decatur’s square. The city is trying artificial turf after many frustrating years of attempting to grow real grass. Assistant City Manager David Junger says the color shown here is far more natural looking than the shiny green seen on many football fields. Courtesy of David Junger

Decatur to install artificial turf on the square

Decatur’s commission recently approved a $39,383 contract with Atlanta-based Synthetic Turf International to install artificial turf on the courthouse square east of the bandstand. The benefits, according to Assistant City Manager David Junger, include no maintenance, watering, mowing, use of chemicals and damage from heavy foot traffic.

Since the bandstand’s construction in the 1990s the lawn behind the old DeKalb Courthouse has become ground zero for thousands of festival-goers, restaurant patrons and school kids hanging out. But almost from the beginning maintaining the natural turf has proved mystifying.

As recently as May 2012, the city spent approximately $375,000 giving the lawn a makeover, including the installation of new gravel, new drain lines, a new irrigation system and new soil. But today the lawn’s mostly a crazy quilt of dead grass and dirt.

“We’ve tried to grow natural turf three times [since the bandstand’s inception],” Junger said. “We can’t find an answer—it’s dirt that won’t compact. The problem is that we’re directly over the MARTA tunnel, and there’s only about 18 inches of dirt or less.”

The artificial turf won’t cover the entire lawn, just the east side between the bandstand and the MARTA plaza on both sides of the sidewalk, or about 5300 square feet. Junger added, “If this works out we’ll consider doing the west side of the bandstand.”

Work should start around August 19, take four or five days and finish before the August 30-Sept. 1 AJC Decatur Book Festival.

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