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Poor city maintenance could cost Edmonton taxpayers: expert

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Poor city maintenance could cost Edmonton taxpayers: expert
WATCH ABOVE: Weeds have once again overtaken what is supposed to be manicured beds of trees, shrubs and perennials. As Vinesh Pratap reports, one expert says the lack of city maintenance of green space could end up costing taxpayers more in the long term. – Aug 24, 2020

The image of Edmonton is being called into question as weeds are overtaking what’s supposed to be manicured beds of trees, shrubs and perennials.

One expert suggests the lack of maintenance isn’t just a bad look for the city but could cost taxpayers.

“It’s saddening, really, and kind of depressing for someone in the business, like myself,” landscape technologist Peter Duncan said.

READ MORE: City of Edmonton to mow grass, trim weeds more often

Duncan uses an area in the Belgravia neighbourhood as an example, where thistles nearly choked out some peonies. City crews moved in and got rid of the weeds but left the thistle seeds behind for next season.

“You’ll have to replace everything if you don’t maintain it,” Duncan said. “And it’s very expensive, maybe four or five times the cost of a maintained landscape.”

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This summer some services — like outdoor landscaping — have been scaled back due to COVID-19 pandemic-related financial challenges facing the city.

READ MORE: City of Edmonton cuts down frequency of grass mowing to save money

Click to play video: 'Is it too little, too late for catching up on grass, turf maintenance in Edmonton?'
Is it too little, too late for catching up on grass, turf maintenance in Edmonton?

Duncan said he’s been challenging the city for years to improve maintenance.

“I’m seeing these very complex planting designs which you would never do on a commercial site,” he said.

City councillor Aaron Paquette is on board for some changes to maintenance.

“What can we do in order to still make things beautiful and to cut down on that budget item,” Paquette said.

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Paquette wants the city to embrace what’s called permaculture — landscaping that draws on local plant species and is essentially self-maintaining.

“It wouldn’t change everything next year, but it would change things over the next five years and 10 years,” he said.

“The birds will be happy, the bees will be happy and the boulevards will finally be happy.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 budget projections show grimmer story for City of Edmonton

Duncan believes the city’s appearance is a matter of civic pride, which he said has been called into question when outsiders visit.

“They get to my house and they go, ‘Edmonton is a mess, what a disaster. What is going on here?'” Duncan said.

In a statement, the city said landscaped boulevards are classified as B-Level shrub beds and have been receiving targeted weed control “as resources allow” because of the impacts of the novel coronavirus.

“In this unprecedented situation, difficult decisions have had to be made. We know that reduced maintenance this year will lead to increased weeds in these shrub beds in the future,” the statement read.

“We don’t yet know the extent to which shrub beds will be impacted. We will address these impacts in an ongoing way as resources allow, with a continued focus on regulated weeds.”

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The city’s statement added that it’s limited in its ability to chemically treat shrub beds unless the weeds in the areas are regulated, because of the cosmetic herbicide ban.

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