AURORA | A plan to improve undeveloped medians in Aurora is leaning on the city’s foray into xeriscaping to save both water and money to spruce up the city’s roadways.

At a Jan. 25 study session, Aurora City Council members gave initial approval to a plan to reduce water use and save money on median maintenance by incorporating designs that use river rock, boulders, shrub and perennial grasses.

The pilot program is being headed by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space department. A xeriscape design will be planted in three medians throughout Aurora that city officials say have erosion issues and have prompted resident complaints.

“The objective behind this whole efforts  is to drive development costs down so we could get a better handle of the number of undeveloped medians that are so pervasive through the city,” said Tom Barrett, director of Aurora’s parks department.

The medians proposed for the project are located at  Alameda Parkway and Chambers Road west to Alameda Drive and Chambers Road, Alameda Parkway heading north to Evanston South Aurora Parkway, and at Smoky Hill Road south to Arapahoe Road.

City Councilwoman Barb Cleland asked city officials to not cut down trees already planted at medians where the pilot designs are being planted.

Why would you get rid of that tree? It’s been there for 30 years. That’s crazy,” she said of one median at Alameda Parkway. 

Bob LeGare said the pilot program should also include medians around Tower Road, which he said were some of the city’s worst eyesores.

The pilot program will cost $850,000 and has been approved as part of the 2016 capital budget. If it is deemed successful, city officials said they plan to have xeriscaped medians elsewhere.

City officials estimate there are  more than 56 miles of medians in the city that are undeveloped, and that it would cost about $1 million per mile to develop the medians using traditional excavation methods that include installing irrigation for trees.