The desert landscape in front of the Millcreek home of Carol Jeffers and Josh Gold acquired a new element Thursday, destined to nestle amid natural rock, light-green sage grass, daisy-like flowers, bark mulch and spiky yuccas: a rock slab carved with their names and the designation "Ripper of the Year."
The contest was sponsored by the Utah Rivers Council to encourage ripping out parking strips — the area between a sidewalk and the street — and replacing the high-maintenance greenery with a landscape more suitable to a desert state. The outcome: saving scarce water.
"We are just excited," Gold said. "And we didn't even do this rip the strip because of the contest."
Since the instigation of the "Rip Your Strip" campaign two years ago, more than 3,000 Utahns have taken the pledge, according to the council. That entitled them to discounts at various landscaping companies, as well as a free pamphlet explaining the techniques and value xeriscaping.
The council says almost 70 percent of Utahns' water use is outdoors, and half of that goes to over-watering their lawns. If a typical yard were replaced with xeriscaping, adds the group, the yearly savings for each household would be 48,000 gallons of water and $75 in water bills.
A first step to encourage yard-wide xeriscaping is to rip the strip, the group believes. And that's what Gold and Jeffers, husband and wife, did.
During a ceremony Thursday at the couple's home, the river council's Mark Danenhauer said it was difficult to choose among the contest's more than 20 entries. But with Gold's and Jeffers' landscaping skills and careful choice of elements, their strip "perfectly exemplifies" the contest's goals, he said.
At the start, Gold said, neighbors may have looked askance at the project. Having pulled out the grass in early June, the strip was largely dirt for most of a week. Meanwhile, the couple prepared the site with a barrier to block weeds and bought plants and other material.
They cut holes in the barrier as indicated by a landscaping plan Jeffers designed. "Then we just started putting plants in," Gold said.
Soon neighbors admired the strip so much that one worked on xeriscaping improvements around a shared mailbox area.
In addition to the plaque Jeffers and Gold received for winning the contest, they won $200 worth of decorative rock and plants and a $30 gardening gift certificate.