Citizens of Grande Prairie will be seeing more areas with native plant growth after city council adopted the Boulevard Naturalization pilot project at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

The pilot project would naturalize 13 hectares of arterial boulevard areas by ceasing mowing and allowing the land to return to a more natural state.

“The best way to naturalize is to leave it as is,” said Kase DeVries, city director of parks.

The city will still monitor the new naturalized areas for noxious weeds and litter, said DeVries. 

Mowing is implemented to control noxious weeds but DeVries said spot spraying would help control noxious weeds in naturalized areas.

The proposed areas for naturalization include portions of 84 Ave., Resources Rd., and 116 Ave.

City administration recommended that the pilot project run over three growing seasons starting this spring and ending in fall 2025.

“This timeframe allows the naturalized areas to properly establish and enables parks to address any noxious weed issues that may arise from ceasing mechanical control (mowing) within the naturalized areas,” says the report that was given to the Operational Services Committee at its last meeting (Feb. 14).

At the Operational Services Committee meeting, Mayor Jackie Clayton said she couldn’t support the pilot running that long.

“Three seasons, in my opinion, is too long to try it,” she said.  

“It’s too large of an increase of naturalization.”

She said residents in other communities haven’t liked seeing the increase in naturalization.

“I know at the Vancouver Airport; they used to naturalize all their medians, all their underpasses and now they’re back to mowing because it helped with weed maintenance.”

Ultimately, council voted on Tuesday to adopt the pilot; Clayton was the sole opponent.

DeVries said public education would be included in the program, consisting of signs at the new naturalization sites with information that would lead users to a city website explaining the pilot project. 

Public education could also expand from last year’s orchard tours which could be rebranded to GP Grows programming, said DeVries.

“We would expand those engagement opportunities to include things like walking through a naturalization site explaining the benefits and being available for resident questions.”

The areas for the pilot project were chosen based on the locations being within 400 metres of maintained parkland, within or near existing environmental reserves or naturalized areas, being acceptable to other city departments, and areas of concern for operational staff such as having slopes or being consistently wet. 

For arterial boulevards that will not be under the new pilot project, council directed administration begin weekly mowing rather than bi-weekly, with the cost being reallocated from fall operations to early summer.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 23, 2023

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

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