An area of the city’s naturalization pilot project was being mowed along Resources Road in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. City council decided to mow naturalized areas as part of the pilot project due to residents’ concerns of it potentially being a fire hazard come spring. (Photo by Jesse Boily)Jesse Boily

A city resident expressed concerns over the city’s naturalization pilot project, citing fire safety concerns at the Sept. 5 regular council meeting.

Mike Kingsbury said he spoke on behalf of the Cornerstone neighbourhood at the meeting. He said some residents were not aware of the project moving ahead despite city engagement. 

“What I’ve heard from residents mostly is just the lack of consultation, the inadequacy, there was a lot of people that were just unaware,” said Kingsway, who noted he was “taken aback” to see the project move forward after looking at a city report on citizen concerns. 

Kingsbury requested council reschedule an open house to discuss resident concerns, especially considering the last open house took place during a province-wide state of emergency. 

The city began a three-year Boulevard Naturalization Pilot Program this year, which has three main locations – 116 Ave. near Copperwood, 84 Ave. near Canfor, and Resources Road where mechanical mowing was ceased to allow for land to return to a more “natural state.”

“Once all of that grass is dead with the first frost, there’ll be a significant fire hazard,” he said. 

Kingsbury suggests that the area be mowed before the first frost to help eliminate any fire risk come the spring. 

Council directed administration at the Sept. 5 meeting to mow naturalized areas that are part of the pilot project adjacent to private properties in the fall. 

Mowing began as early as Thursday, Sept. 7, a News reporter observed. 

“The issue with nationalization is it goes through its ugly teenage phase, and what I’ve seen in other communities through my research, it looks ugly for a couple of years before you really do get to see the benefits, including the benefits of having fire-resistant species popping up,” said Coun. Dylan Bressey.  

Councillors Chris Thiessen and Wade Pilat opposed mowing the pilot project areas. 

“I appreciate the worry about fires and odds and ends, but I think if we try naturalization, let’s try it,” said Pilat. 

“We’ve started this process, and I feel like this just kind of undoes a year of starting something.”

He said he would want a report on naturalization to come to council before it begins changing procedures in the pilot project.

City council expects a report on the first year of the naturalization pilot project in October, according to city administration. 

Coun. Wendy Bosch said, “it’s year one, and clearly, we have some issues.”

“I don’t see how cutting grass or fall cutting is going to eliminate what we want to do in the future; I think we just need a better plan.”

Coun. Grant Berg said residents need to be heard and that mowing should move ahead, but council and the public need more information on whether mowing should be done in these naturalized areas.

“This very much is still a pilot project, and I’ve heard some people say, ‘Hey, we should mow once a year, and it won’t make a difference,’ and some say, ‘hey, if we mow them every year that will really stop nationalization from happening,’” said Bressey.

“It’ll be interesting to have an area that we’ve moved once and areas that we haven’t so we can compare, and I think that’s useful for our pilot program.”

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 14, 2023

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

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