‘Heartbreaking’: Calgary bee habitat, volunteer project mowed down

Click to play video: 'Mower mystery: Calgary pollinator corridor gone after ‘heartbreaking’ destruction'
Mower mystery: Calgary pollinator corridor gone after ‘heartbreaking’ destruction
WATCH: Some hardworking Calgary volunteers are heartbroken and devastated after the destruction of their community project. As Gil Tucker reports, they’re now asking for help getting to the bottom of it, as they hunt for a man with a mower. – Aug 10, 2021

Countless hours of volunteer work over the past three years was wiped out Monday after a boulevard was mowed down.

“It was starting to get to the point where all the flowers were showing and it was nice to walk by,” said Moraig McCabe, Coventry Hills resident and Creating Coventry founder.

The two-block stretch of Coventry Hills Way N.E. near Nose Creek School is one of two “bee boulevards,” a specialized corridor containing native grasses, flowers and shrubs that are salt tolerant and drought resistant. Rather than be conventionally attractive for curb appeal, they’re meant to attract native pollinators.

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Volunteers with Creating Coventry had been tending to the slivers of land in the road medians for years, starting with planting, watering and weeding. The native roses, grasses, yarrow and other plants can take some time to establish.

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Both the city and the community volunteer group had signs up along the stretch, some of which read “Nature at work,” with pictures of bees and an explanation on why the median was being grown out with native plants.

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“It says ‘No mowing.’ It’s very clear,” volunteer gardener Nikki Pike told Global News.

Monday evening, all that work was razed to the ground.

“We know that from a witness, someone had taken the signs out, mowed it down, and then put the signs back up,” Pike said. “So we know they saw the signs.”

Pike said the volunteer group has dashcam video and are doing some “sleuthing” to try to find the culprit. They confirmed it wasn’t an errant city mower, and have informed bylaw and parks, which are also looking into the incident.

“It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so much work down the drain,” Pike said. “It really was a community effort and we’d like to know how and why this happened.”

Click to play video: 'Barrage of big bees could be a good sign in Alberta'
Barrage of big bees could be a good sign in Alberta

On top of the untold hours of community effort, the creation and maintenance of the bee boulevard in the city’s north-central neighbourhood cost about $10,000 from city coffers.

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McCabe said the idea of creating a habitat friendly to bees came from community consultations in 2017.

“They wanted to save the butterflies and the bees,” McCabe told Global News. “At the time, the city was piloting places to naturalize spaces. We looked and these two medians looked prime because they were full of dandelions and no grass.”

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Another bee boulevard exists in Canyon Meadows.

Calgary was named Canada’s 36th bee city, recognizing the city’s commitment to protecting pollinators.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., bees and other pollinators play an important, but often underappreciated, role in ecosystems that include green vegetation.

“Many species of plants and animals would not survive if bees were missing,” an FAO report reads.

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An estimated 80 per cent of flowering plants require pollinators in order to reproduce, the FAO said, and honeybees originally developed in forests.

According to the U.N. body, improving the number and diversity of pollinators can boost crop yields, too.

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McCabe said the pollinator corridor also served as a way to educate citizens about the important role pollinators like bees, birds and bats play in an ecosystem.

“We need pollinators. Alberta is an agricultural province — we need bees to keep our province going.”

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