The city’s Boulevard Naturalization Pilot Program will remain as is for now after council shelved any plans to enhance the aesthetics in those areas.

The three-year pilot project will enter its second growing season this spring at three locations on Resources Road, 84 Ave. and 116 Ave. 

City Administration recommended that aesthetic changes not be made to the pilot areas because noxious weeds at the site are not yet under control.

“Prematurely planting at any site where there are still noxious weeds does pose a challenge of course, as disturbing that soil to plant your desirable species may inadvertently propagate those noxious weeds,” said Kase DeVries, city director of Environment & Parks.

“Multiple years are required to allow those desirable species to grow and then as well to sufficiently control any noxious weed concerns that may arise.”

He noted changes have already been made to the pilot within its first year, including mowing naturalized areas next to private properties and mowing the south portion of 84 Ave.’s pilot area to avoid trees growing to impact overhead power lines and snow storage capacity. 

DeVries says the changes previously directed by council will not change the results as to aesthetics of naturalization along city boulevards.

The pilot aims to assess the aesthetic impact of naturalizing boulevards over three growing seasons. 

The Operational Services Committee accepted a city report on “aesthetically enhanced naturalization” at its Feb. 20 meeting.

City councillors have been divided; some have noted the areas look messy and unkept while others believe an unsightly growing phase will lead to beautiful sites in future years.

Coun. Wade Pilat questioned in October he wonders what savings the city is making converting to naturalization as compared to mowing.

 “I kind of wonder if this is a five-year payback, seven-year payback, 10-year payback, and for me, that’s important because I think we do have to put money on it, but we have to appreciate at some point if we’re going to put upfront capital money there should be operational savings at some point if we’re not mowing seven (to) 10 hours every week on berms that nobody’s ever using for anything other than to drive by look at it,” said Pilat.

DeVries says the cost of the pilot compared to mowing is similar due to the increased efforts in controlling noxious weeds and litter, which get caught in the growth.

Alternatives offered

The report also offered options to enhance the naturalized areas, including additional costs to the city such as including natural species of shrubs and tree plugs at a cost of about $6,500/ha or introducing perennial plants and grasses at a cost of about $18,720/ha.

The committee’s decision to accept the report and keep the naturalized pilot areas as is came at no additional cost. 

The city’s pilot is similar to the City of Edmonton’s approach to naturalization with a focus on reducing turf maintenance. 

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 29, 2024 at 09:15

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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