Let it grow: City encouraging naturalization in some of Edmonton’s green spaces

Some areas of the city are overgrown due to a reduced mowing schedule, while others are being encouraged as part of naturalization. Caley Ramsay, Global News

The City of Edmonton has been playing catch-up when it comes to grooming grassy areas after budget issues related to COVID-19 forced changes to the mowing schedule.

What might surprise many Edmontonians who weren’t happy with the state of things at the start of the summer is that some spaces will be left shaggy on purpose.

“Naturalization helps preserve and celebrate the natural plants and animal species that we find in our region,” said Catherine Falk, community greening co-ordinator with the City of Edmonton on 630CHED’s The Ryan Jespersen Show.

“(It’s about) making sure that we have sustainable practices that contribute to a healthy and climate-resilient city, so that it’s livable for generations to come.”

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Naturalization is a form of landscaping that reverts select open spaces to a more natural state. First, the grass is allowed to grow with some monitoring and maintaining of any provincially legislated weeds.

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Falk says it can look a little messy at first, but eventually the grass will mature and overtake the weeds.

“And that’s where the Root for Trees Program rolls in,” she said. “We start working with volunteers to plant trees and shrubs that are native to Alberta to help enrich the area, which also contributes to the urban forest, and has many environmental benefits that provide back to the community in Edmonton.”

Because the reduced mowing schedule this summer means more overgrown areas, Edmontonians may be taking more notice – but according to Falk, the naturalization initiative has actually been ongoing for more than 20 years, with noticeable results along highways like the Yellowhead and Whitemud Drive.

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“Within the new naturalized areas you can definitely see a lot of increase in biodiversity, along with the benefits of having those natural areas starting to create habitats for pollinators, other insects, as well as some of our grass-nesting songbirds,” Falk said.

So if you notice that city mowers are allowing grassy areas in your neighbourhood to flourish, it might not be accidental or due to a lack of resources.

“We live in a city that has the North Saskatchewan River running through it, and it’s a major feature in our city,” said Falk.

“But why should we hold the natural area just to one location in the city?

“I think that every Edmontonian has the privilege to go outside and walk into green space and enjoy nature close to where they live.”

The Root For Trees Program has a goal of planting 45,000 trees per year. Volunteer activities have been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.

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