by Sally Cohen
Constant mowing of airfield turfgrass is costly, generates excessive fuel emissions and attracts wildlife dangerous to aircraft, like Canada geese and deer. Lafayette Hill resident Christina Kobland envisioned a better way and was recently awarded a U.S. patent on her invention.
Marketed as FlightTurf®, it’s a turfgrass vegetation management system maintained weed-free that virtually eliminates mowing and could save airports [and others] significant maintenance dollars.
“It’s gratifying seeing airports increase safety and savings while keeping wildlife from harm,” said Kobland, president of Native Return®, LLC, which specializes in using native plants to restore balance to declining ecosystems. “It makes more sense to plant vegetation that wildlife are not attracted to, rather than trying to ‘manage’ them after they enter the airfield.”
Geese, deer and even insects tend to avoid FlightTurf®. Based on Kobland’s years of research on airfields, including, among others, Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE), this turfgrass and vegetative management system requires only one mow per year to maintain an average height of 6-7 inches. FlightTurf® meets FAA specifications, and Kobland, who asked that her age not be mentioned, has received a letter from their national office permitting its use on airfields.
Airports using FlightTurf® include Baltimore Washington International, Erie International, San Francisco International, Rochester International, Portland International in Oregon, Elmira Corning Regional Airport in New York and Chicago Rockford in Illinois.
“Reduced mowing eliminates runway incursion, a costly safety issue,” Kobland said last week. “In some situations, airports implement a full or partial closure for mowing alone. Less mowing also significantly decreases the flush of insects, mutilation of small animals and production of hay, all of which unduly attracts wildlife.”
The grass has far reaching applications, including roadside, commercial and residential uses. Beyond reductions in maintenance, FlightTurf® enhances a landscape’s ability to handle stormwater and requires no fertilization or supplemental watering. Kobland has four additional U.S. patents pending.
Concerned by the loss of wildlife habitat, Christina Kobland founded Native Return, LLC, in 2007 with the goal of convincing others to share their land with wildlife. The company is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for clients wishing to establish native plant habitat, rich with biodiversity, in the disturbed sites typical to the region.
“My goal is to promote the protection of native plant habitat supportive of wildlife,” said Kobland. “I love wildlife. It is my passion to protect wildlife. Too often they get the short end of the stick. I promise to do my best to change that.”
Native Return services range from lawn to native meadow conversions, invasive plant removal and control, utility right-of-way habitat conversions, introduction and management of wildlife corridors, detention/retention basin naturalization and low maintenance airfield FlightTurf installations to repel wildlife, protecting both aircraft and animals from harm.
Clients include City of Philadelphia Division of Aviation, PECO/Exelon, Smallow Property Management, Colonial School District and Urban Engineers, as well as residential clients.
Christina Kobland’s and Native Return’s projects have won international, national and regional awards, and she educates the public about the benefits of native landscaping through lectures. She also won the Whitemarsh Township 2010 Best Commercial Garden Award.
East33.org is the blog of Native Return, LLC. The name of the blog comes from the fact that it all started with saving 33 acres for wildlife. Native Return, LLC, has grown to become one of the most effective wildlife advocates in the region.