Good question: What’s up with the lawn in front of St. Mark’s?

by susan on June 3, 2010

Post image for Good question: What’s up with the lawn in front of St. Mark’s?

I’ve had several readers ask me about the unusual mowing pattern on the St. Mark’s lawn this year. If you’ve driven down Main Street or Route 85, surely you’ve noticed that a large portion of the lawn has gone unmowed all spring, with the tallest of the blades now a good couple feet high.

I had the chance earlier this week to ask St. Mark’s Business Manager Bob Meyer about the lawn. He told me that particular portion of lawn is not used for athletics, so the school’s Sustainability Task Force recommended not mowing it. Leaving it au naturel means less gas consumption and less pollution from the mowers. Meyer didn’t specifically say so, but presumably it also means more habitat for birds and other little critters.

Meyer said there are no immediate plans to mow the lawn. “It’s a trial,” he said. “We’re open to feedback.”

So, what do you think? Do you like the idea or hate it?

1 NancyV June 3, 2010 at 11:38 AM

I love it and thought that it might be a new policy either for econimics or the environment. Both noble causes. I like the way it looks, especially the serpentine edge.

2 Andrew Zaterka June 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM

Looks better mowed.

3 Frank June 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM

I think it looks terrible. This is supposed to be our town green area. It looks like an abondoned property.

4 Sue Rosenthal June 3, 2010 at 9:58 PM

No, the abandoned property would be the overgrown lot at the corner of Newton Street and East Main….Now, THAT is an eyesore.

5 Kelly Roney June 5, 2010 at 12:33 AM

St. Mark’s green is not Southborough’s, although they lend it to us for Heritage Day. Our town green is the much smaller piece of land edged by Town Hall, Pilgrim Church, the old Town Cemetery, the library, Morris Funeral Home, and the Stone Health Center.

6 Frank June 8, 2010 at 3:11 PM

OK so it is not technically “our town green” but it is our town corner and one of the most attractive parts of our Main Street. I still maintain that it looks awful and doesn’t fit in with the immediate surroundings, why don’t we let the lawns around the library and churches grow too?

7 John Boiardi June 10, 2010 at 2:30 PM


Town Green? How would you feel if the town took the land by eminant domain and used it to build a new Fire/Police station? It is the logical location to build the facility.

8 Tim D June 3, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Hope they cut it before Heritage Day! It’s also a great habitat for deer ticks, hope no one get’s Lyme Disease…..

9 John Kendall June 3, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I heard through a “semi-trustworthy” source that this is an example of St. Mark’s reducing their “carbon footprint”. I bet if John Mauro was still chief of the grounds, it wouldn’t look like that

10 John Holden July 19, 2010 at 3:21 PM

wanna bet??

11 Andrew D June 3, 2010 at 1:41 PM

I understand why they would want to reduce the number of mowings, but I think it looks terrible. When I think of a prestigious school like St. Marks, I think of rolling green fields of grass, not hay.

12 Margaret Doyle June 3, 2010 at 2:02 PM

The know that the ISL schools are having a green competition…luckily Roxbury Latin was able to cut back in other ways and they mowed the lawn for :”closing exercises” June 5th.

13 Pat Quill June 3, 2010 at 2:11 PM

It may not look serene and “private school- like” but I applaud their willingness to
not only cut back on cost, but also reduce their carbon footprint which, by the way,
effects us all. I like NancyV’s positive comment as well… ” a noble cause”.
My lawn at home is cut short and I still have ticks…so much for that argument.

14 Tim D June 3, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Not an argument, but a fact – this from the Center for Disease Control at

Use landscaping techniques to create a tick-safe zone around homes, parks, and recreational areas. Ticks that transmit Lyme disease thrive in humid wooded areas. They die quickly in sunny and dry environments. Here are some simple landscaping techniques to help reduce tick populations.

Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edges of lawns.
Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration to recreational areas.
Mow the lawn and clear brush and leaf litter frequently.
Keep the ground under bird feeders clean.
Stack wood neatly and in dry areas.
Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees.

Lyme disease is nothing to sniff at, especially when you or someone you love has had it – and it can be a lifelong affliction. I say cut the grass!!

15 Pat Quill June 3, 2010 at 3:24 PM

I agree, Lyme disease is certainly nothing to sniff at…… has been in my family.
The field is not a “humid, wooded area” as mentioned above…’s in full sun and is dry. I say………don’t walk through the tall grass at St. Marks.

16 Pat Quill June 3, 2010 at 3:26 PM

well, in full sun most of the time…….except when the picture was taken.

: )

17 Jim M. June 3, 2010 at 2:15 PM

It looks ridiculous and is embarrasing to the school and the town. Please mow it!

18 Sue Rosenthal June 3, 2010 at 2:16 PM

When it gets a bit taller, have a local farmer come to cut and bale it for the Southborough Belted Galloways! :-)

19 LHM June 3, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Cut back on the frequency of mowing but don’t give it up all together! Eye sore!

20 Dean Dairy June 3, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Long and lush, wasn’t that the style back in the 1970s?

21 John Kendall June 3, 2010 at 6:20 PM

Yep………..for guys hair

22 Minimom June 3, 2010 at 3:58 PM

mow it down!

23 Former Townie June 3, 2010 at 4:28 PM


24 Sarah Moore June 3, 2010 at 6:10 PM

I think not mowing is quite practical and current with the times: saving gas (which has been leaking into the gulf by the thousands of barrels each day within the last 5 weeks), saving money (in the healthy economy we currently have here in the US) and it is also a great break for the environment. I think this is a wonderful way to show off the town as being up-to-date and earth-conscious.

25 AD Miller June 3, 2010 at 6:36 PM

I drove past this spot tonight after reading about it on this blog. What is not to like??? It is nice to see some semi-natural setting near the downtown. As a society we are all too focused on our lawnmowers and creating the beautiful lawn. We are surrounded by nature for a reason and more people should think about embracing it, especially in this town which is hanging on the brink between full blown subrubia and a semblage of what the town looked like 100 years ago. It is shortsighted to use Lyme disease as an excuse for why this should be mowed. In this area you can’t get away from deer ticks. As long as you remain vigilent for their presence you can reduce your exposure risk.

26 Charles June 3, 2010 at 6:48 PM

At a time when the results of our over-consumption of fossil fuels are so tragically evident this is a small but visible statement of the school’s priorities and values. Bravo, St. Mark’s.

27 Jerry W, Southboro June 3, 2010 at 6:59 PM

Let it grow. But make the edges straight. I like the idea of gathering it for hay in the fall, but the haying equipment would make ruts all over the field.

28 Pat Quill June 3, 2010 at 7:17 PM

Bravo “AD Miller” and “Charles” !
I couldn’t agree more.

29 Doc June 3, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Marketing rhetoric at its best. This is about economics, not the environment. What’s not to like? It looks like hell and it’s become a breeding ground for ticks, mosquitos, and any other number of insects, pests, and other irritants. Can you use some vigilance against them? Sure, but why breed them?

30 Al Hamilton June 3, 2010 at 7:23 PM

I agree, reduced mowing is a good thing. I know of at least one University that is also engaging in this practice to reduce cost, carbon foot print and increase biodiversity. Plus for those who wax rhapsodic about our rural heritage (I don’t) this is far closer to what the landscape looked like 100 years ago.

It is possible to practice this at home as well. The rule of thumb in lawn mowing is to only reduce 1/3 of the grass at a time by raising your mower height you can have a greener lawn and reduce the number of times you have to mow. I have been doing this for about 2 years and am quite happy with the results.

31 Janet June 3, 2010 at 8:28 PM

Bravo–kudos to St. Marks!

32 AD Miller June 3, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Not all insects are bad, in fact most play an important role in our everday life. Mosquitos breed where there is standing water, so they won’t breed at that site. Ticks may breed in there, but the more important vector for Lyme disease in our area is the white footed mouse on which the ticks feed and continue the infection cycle. White footed mice breed on the edge of woodlots, typically in nature cavities (i.e. fallen log, underground, in between rocks) and I sincerely doubt there would be many mice in that area. St. Marks should be encouraged to seed the area with native wildflowers and try to return it to an even more pastoral appearance.

33 Kate Matison June 3, 2010 at 8:59 PM

I think it’s just GREAT. Meadows rule!

34 Cry me a river June 3, 2010 at 9:41 PM

I think this is St. Mark’s way of saying thanks Southborough! “News Headlines” St. Mark’s grows hayfield in protest of PILOT. Being asked to give up a few feet of land for the police station. Residents say they’ve had enough on Latisquama Road with buses and trucks, they want the school to use its Main Entrance.

Heritage Day should be a blast this year, make sure you have a long rope on your kids so you can find them. Can you say Fire Hazard!! How about Santa??? He can’t land in a hayfield can he? All you dog owners now have a great place to let your dog have a little privacy while doing their business.

Maybe their next step will be signs around the edge of the field warning people….No Trespassing Allowed.

St. Mark’s should cut their damn lawn like everyone else on Main Street.

35 What's up with buses on Latisquama!?! June 4, 2010 at 9:38 AM

St. Mark’s can make their own decisions about their own lawn but I’d like to see them follow the rules of the road.

Can someone tell me why St. Mark’s is granted an exception to the general rules of the road (that the public at large are required to follow) and allowed to travel on Latisquama Road with tour sized buses when trucks and heavy vehicles are in fact restricted by law?

36 Former Townie June 4, 2010 at 6:13 AM

I find this funny. Manicured lawns are a modern obsession. They don’t occur naturally. As for the ticks and mosquitos , you would think this was the only section of Southborough that has grass longer than 2 ” high. How about all the other fields in town harboring all these evil insects. Please.

37 carrie alpert June 4, 2010 at 6:52 AM

on board with the “let it grow” to reduce the carbon footprint and i commend St. Marks for keeping up with the times. If you do not want the ticks that may or may not be loving up the environment that has been established there then, well, don’t frolick in the tall grassy knolls. There is a large margin mowed around the perimeter.
I say mow it and feed the hay to the cows on Breakneck Hill–pay it all forward–and as far as it being about economics vs. environment or the basic liability vs. livibility– everyone is looking out for the bottom line, it is called self preservation; however, in this situation you can really see how cost effectiveness can be merried with sustainability.

38 Sue June 4, 2010 at 7:28 AM

Hate it. Please cut it. It is an eyesore.

39 mike June 4, 2010 at 8:45 AM

St Marks corner, newton street corner, and the new half painted deli next to vacant capasso farms, I’m curious how much traffic flows by these eyesores every weekday…and on weekends, southborough families bring their money to westborough for ulman’s and the green thumb….hmmmmm…

40 Mom June 8, 2010 at 3:21 PM

My family is one of those Sboro families that brings its money to Ulmann’s and the Green Thumb. And when I do, I always wish Capasso was still open so I could get all my plants, fresh fruit and veggies, etc. there. I would LOVE it if someone would reopen it – and also put in an ice cream stand with operating hours similar to Ulmann’s! In the meantime, my money will keep going to those (excellent) Wboro businesses…

41 John Kendall June 4, 2010 at 8:47 AM

How about contacting St. Mark’s and get the real story? Like I said in the very beginning……it’s something that I heard.

42 susan June 4, 2010 at 9:03 AM

John, I did talk with someone at St. Mark’s – their Business Manager. He said the decision not to mow was made for sustainability reasons. (more details in the post above.)

43 Joyce June 4, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Lawns are an unnatural monoculture and relatively recent (suburban) phenomenon that usually require harmful chemicals (not to mention extra water) to maintain. In moderation… OK… but I salute St. Mark’s for letting a piece of their extensive property “go green,” as it were. As for the danger of Lyme disease (real, in my family too), just check yourself carefully for ticks when you’ve been in their habitat. I hope St. Mark’s lets it go long enough to see what native flowers start appearing. Dare I say it would make a good study for a student botanist….?

44 Ren June 4, 2010 at 10:02 AM

I think it is wonderful that St. Mark’s is considering environmental impact via reduced mowing as a cost cutting measure. More businesses should. I hope they expand the trial. The obsession with golf-course looking yards is manic not to mention annoying on the ear to hear a fleet of mowers every weekend at the crack of dawn. If this practice trickles out into yards around town we all benefit. Teaching students that unnecessary mowing is wasteful is another long-term gain to consider. They might pass conservation principles forward in their own families.

45 John Boiardi June 4, 2010 at 11:14 AM

St. Marks,
Get real !! People that praise St Marks for not mowing a few acres stating the Greenee “carbon footprint ” gambit should take a ride around Southborough and view the manicured lawns. Let he who turns his lawnmower over to the transfer station throw the first praise.

46 NancyV June 4, 2010 at 2:44 PM

I take that challenge. We don’t need to turn our lawn mower over to the transfer station. We do not own a gas driven mower. My husband mows with a reel lawn mower. No carbon footprint, great exercise, no annoying noise pollution like what I am being subjected to right now as I type this.

Also, just because most of Southborough worships at the altar of the lawn gods doesn’t mean that we all do, nor that we cannot view St. Mark’s choice as a victory for the environment.

47 John Boiardi June 8, 2010 at 7:36 PM

Nancy V

Will you feel the same when townspeople have to wade through foot high grass at the annual Heritage Day? Is it OK to mow for that occasion?

Regarding your husband using a handmower- KUDO’s to him. How big is your lawn? Regarding the sound of power mowers I find it comforting because it drowns out the sound of TV’s, ipods, click click computer keyboards. Personally I find the back and forth churning of a hand mower annoying. To each his own.

48 NancyV June 8, 2010 at 10:56 PM

I never said that it wasn’t okay to mow for any occasion. I simply congratulate them for choosing not to mow one area. Every little bit helps. Obviously, if the town wants to use the field for heritage day it will have to be mowed. Let’s not get ridiculous. Maybe the school will ask the town to mow it if they want to hold heritage day there. Or maybe St. Mark’s will continue to be generous, even after being ridiculed/criticized on this blog by the same residents who come to Heritage Day every year and use their field without so much as a “thank you.”

Our property is just under an acre but with a wooded section and a large garden. He probably mows about a third of an acre.

Where do you live that you can hear TV’s, ipods and computer keyboards so loudly that it takes the roar of a power mower to drown it out? Admit it, now you are just being facetious. Do you love the gas fumes and the pretty gray smoke as well? ;)

49 John Boiardi June 10, 2010 at 2:37 PM

It’s my computer. 1.1 acre (almost all grass). I also love the smell of napalm in the morning. Yes I am being facetious.

50 John Boiardi June 10, 2010 at 2:49 PM


P.S Perhaps if StM would let the whole field grow and not have the “my mower ran out of gas” look I would agree. It is as if StM can’t make up its mind whether it is an envioronmental advocate or a clear cut and pave it industrialist.

51 Lisa Matthew June 4, 2010 at 4:28 PM

I can’t believe that this article has 40 comments! Make that 41!

52 John Boiardi June 8, 2010 at 7:37 PM



53 Deborah Costine June 4, 2010 at 5:03 PM

I LOVE it!
It would be fun to have a couple meandering pathways through it.

54 Kelly Roney June 5, 2010 at 12:35 AM

Pretty amazing that people find a meadow to be an eyesore… They probably think someone should clean all the down timber out of the forest, too. Do they get physically ill when they drive through a city?

55 John Kendall June 6, 2010 at 9:53 PM

Not that it’s bad….it’s just never been a meadow……at least in my time it hasn’t. And to Helen… lawn is green….if you include the clover

56 Helen L June 6, 2010 at 8:21 PM

I wondered why it wasn’t being mowed as well, and thought it may be to both save on costs and environmental impact… Why is it such a big deal for people to see a perfect lawn? I love the idea to put that space to use and donate the hay to the cows on Breakneck Hill. And I’m glad my neighbors don’t mind my usually unkempt lawn. What I do hate is the NOISE from all the lawn services in town descending on all my neighbor’s houses at the same time, every Friday afternoon.(Isn’t there a law for noise?)

As far as St. Mark’s using Latisquama and School Street for their buses and deliveries, they need to use Route 85, and keep their fumes and dangerously-sized vehicles off of these little roads! Are they more concerned that their high-school aged students are in more danger than the daycare and neighborhood kids are? I do think their students should have learned by now how to cross a parking lot…

57 Jan June 6, 2010 at 10:40 PM

I too, am amazed that this “controversy” has so much activity! I would welcome this “eye-sore” in my neighborhood…my eye sore, within a few weeks, is going to be school buses, parked in my residential neighborhood. Anyone on Main Street want to trade situations? At least the meadow creates oxygen, not diesel fumes!!

58 Sue Grinblatas June 7, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Has anyone noticed the actual eyesore on Main Street? Corner of Main and Newton? Been there over a decade?

59 De June 7, 2010 at 2:30 PM

I’m fine with St. Mark’s not mowing a portion of their field. I’m glad they keep the edges short but I think the longer grass in the interior looks just fine. Last June I attended my 15th college reunion. Cornell University was already taking the same sustainability measures and keeping some of their unused green spaces unmowed. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s not much of an eyesore to me.

60 Jonas June 7, 2010 at 4:38 PM

This is truly a black eye. Just curious why the myriad fields which don’t interface with the town common/itersection are trimmed all the time?

Don’t be so naive folks, that Thirty minutes twice a month, on the lawn mower isn’t going to sustain much of anything, and even if it does, the Zamboni driving around the ice rink will offset whatever Carbon it saves.

Welcome To Southboro, the Haight Ashbury of Metrowest!

61 NancyV June 8, 2010 at 11:03 PM

Every little bit helps.

Oh yes, support one small step for the environment and we are all painted as the epitome of hippie extremism. Exaggerate much?

62 Jonas June 10, 2010 at 7:09 PM

My exaggeration is only superseded by your thought that this is pushing carbon credits to the town. It looks terrible.

Now that school’s out at St. Marks it would stand to reason the other athletic fields chase the Kelly Leak look as well. If not, I’m curious still, as to what their rationale is for isolating this one.

63 Kate June 11, 2010 at 7:50 AM

Jonas, you’re probably not be aware of this, but St. Mark’s is the site for a summer camp program called Explo. Campers use the fields every summer for activities, so I’d imagine this year will be no different.

64 Kate June 7, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Jonas, here’s the answer to your question right in the article.

“I had the chance earlier this week to ask St. Mark’s Business Manager Bob Meyer about the lawn. He told me that particular portion of lawn is not used for athletics, so the school’s Sustainability Task Force recommended not mowing it.”

65 JZP June 7, 2010 at 9:44 PM

First off, I think it is INCREDIBLY sad that this topic has over 50 comments and things like economic and policy topics have 0 or 1. Everyone reading this blog should be ashamed.

Secondly, I love that St Mark’s is doing this. Anyone whinging about unsightliness should move to a gated community with covenant controls where they can dictate their neighbor’s behavior, otherwise stuff it. Regardless if the motivation is economic, green, or protesting some obscure thing I’ve never heard of, the end result is a Good Thing.

66 Read This June 8, 2010 at 3:32 PM

JZP, get a grip. Just because an item has a lot of comments doesn’t make it “sad” or a “controversy” — it’s just interesting.

Oh yeah, great irony as well, you posting on this item and not the “economic or policy topics hav[ing] 0 or 1” posts that you think is such a shame.

Relax, people!

67 Jeremiah Mass June 9, 2010 at 8:46 AM

JZP – “Incredibly” sad??? I’d hate to see how you’d handle a real tragedy.

Sometimes, a break from the topics that you feel newsworthy, such as “economic and policy topics”, is welcome. This is a community message board and comments such as yours that discourage remarks such as those above are incredibly sad. You are the one that should be ashamed. And embarrassed.

In regards to the lawn at St. Mark’s, let’s just hope that it is cut before Heritage Day so we can all enjoy the festivities of that day without having to tramp through high grass.

68 molly megan June 10, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Something tells me it will be more than ticks making their home in the hayfield! It is just not the place to let it grow out of control.

69 Kim June 10, 2010 at 6:45 PM

I love it!

70 Karen Muggeridge June 10, 2010 at 11:30 PM

Thank you St Marks!!! What a wonderful ecological decision you have made! I thank you for taking the time and effort to make the landscaping attractive with the curved edges.
For those with concerns, I believe the area will have to be mowed on a somewhat regular basis as the land will, I am sure, want to be utilized as fields in the future and if it is not mowed, larger plants will start to encroach that would not be compatible with field use.
St Marks has been very generous to the town in allowing the use of their property for Heritage Day and I find it amazing that people are making unfounded assumptions here for something so far away.
As for the ticks, that is really not the ideal environment for them. Also, I am assuming that most of you making concerned comments are driving by, not frolicking in the meadow, and unless there is a new breed of winged deer tick, you can still pull you socks up outside of you pant legs, but rest assured, you most likely will not get Lyme Disease.
Again, kudos St. Marks!!

71 Al Hamilton June 11, 2010 at 8:06 AM

Everything You Wanted to Know About Deer Ticks:

I have had Lyme Disease and here is a resource that has more than you ever wanted to know about Deer Ticks

Starting on Page 46 there are some practical guidelines on what you can do to minimize exposure to ticks on your own property.

The bottom line is that Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease are here to stay. You are far more likely to be exposed in shaded damp areas such as woods, sitting on a rock wall, or sitting in the cool shade of your back yard. That being said letting the grass grow will probably increase the probability of exposure if you walk through the meadow vs lawn.

“While data are limited, meadows appear to harbor few blacklegged ticks except along narrow edges with woodlands, dense vegetation and stonewall. Native grasses, which usually grow in small clumps, provide cover for meadow birds and certain butter.ies (particularly skippers) and are deer resistant.”

Another control strategy would be to start killing the deer in town. That would reduce the population but Deer ticks also attach themselves to mice, chipmunks and squirrels.

72 JTS June 16, 2010 at 6:24 PM

yeah, can we? I would love to kill me some deer, and some hedgehogs too.

73 H.A.B. June 28, 2010 at 7:15 AM

The lawn looks horrible, and their property on School St. looks forlorn and neglected.
Maybe they can raise tuition $5. a year per kid so they can afford to run the lawnmowers all the way around their property. It looks like they’re cultivating
deer ticks.

74 Rick July 16, 2010 at 4:38 PM

I think it looks awful. The grass is now falling over and turning brown. Although it is not “Southborough’s Land”, it is where many people walk, hang out, and play. It is also one of the most attractive places in town, not to mention the location for Heritage Day. Not only is it an awful sight, it is a breeding ground for ticks. With the dry grass there now, it would take one spark for the entire field to turn into a blaze, especially in the intense dry heat we have been having. Yes, they say they are lowering their carbon footprint, but obviously the carbon footprint from the recent construction of all the new housing was of no importance to them. Just my thoughts.

75 Pam July 19, 2010 at 9:05 AM

Horrible, horrible, horrible. Please mow it!!!

76 John Kendall July 19, 2010 at 11:23 AM

I agree. Because of it’s location, it looks terrible and should be mowed.

77 Trixie July 19, 2010 at 6:35 PM

As I was driving by the St Mark’s hayfield this evening, I thought of a solution – the Breakneck Hill cows. The cows need to eat. The hay needs to be trimmed. There you go.

I think the lovely belted cows would add some scenic tranquility to our downtown – don’t you?

78 Get over it. . . July 19, 2010 at 9:25 PM

Susan’s away so we had to start beating this dead horse again? The land is private property. They can do what they like with it. Keep this up and they might decide to no longer allow us to have Heritage Day there.

79 I agree with "Get Over it!" July 21, 2010 at 9:12 AM

I LOVE IT! Natural. Beautiful. Not-uptight.

80 Jesse Henderson August 10, 2010 at 6:52 PM

Let’s all follow St Marks lead and let it grow everywhere else in town. Who needs lawn service & chemicals anyhow. Will I be getting lost in the maze on Heritage day?

81 Ren January 21, 2011 at 3:03 PM is worth reading. Please consider the long-term value found in reducing the golf-course lawns in our community.

Previous post:

Next post: