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Find out how the City is transforming land into a more natural landscape for a healthier and climate resilient city and explore FAQs about naturalization near you.

The City and Naturalization

Why are certain areas naturalized and other areas are maintained? How do you prioritize areas for naturalization?

There are a number of reasons why a site may be selected for naturalization. There are a variety of different types of green spaces that are suitable for naturalization, including: 

  • Safety sites or areas that are unsafe to mow 
    • Examples: steep (3:1) slopes, wet turf areas, and roadways with speeds greater than 70 km
  • Stormwater Management Facilities and Dry Ponds
    • The function of a stormwater management facility is to manage stormwater and drainage. Naturalization helps to increase the safety buffer between the water's edge and the public use area, as well as to filter water, prevent erosion and slow stormwater runoff. When safe to do so, a buffer strip will be cut along the property line and along a multi-use path.
  • Utility Corridors
  • Along arterial residential roadways
  • Environmentally sensitive or beneficial areas
  • Low use parkland that does not have specific activities or uses occurring activities
Why is the City naturalizing open spaces?

A healthy ecological network is important for many reasons:

  • It provides habitat for native plants and wildlife.
  • It supports natural processes (soil regeneration, flood prevention, waste decomposition, crop pollination, seed dispersal), which we are absolutely dependent on for our survival.
  • It connects urban dwellers with the natural world right in our own backyard, giving us a chance to learn about plants, wildlife and natural processes.
  • It gives us beautiful places to exercise, relax and unwind, which supports our physical and mental well-being.
  • Through careful stewardship we can make sure that our local ecological network and the biodiversity it supports are protected. To this end, together with community partners, the City is working to achieve its environmental goals.  More information can be found in The City Plan
     
Is there a way the naturalized area can be reverted back to mowed?

Many of the areas selected for naturalization are for safety reasons and are unable to be reverted to mowed areas. These areas may include steep slopes or places where the soil is too wet to safely operate machinery, or there is a high risk of public property damage - for instance, if they are too close to fenced areas. Limited mowing may continue in these safety locations along walkways and private fence lines where conditions permit. 

While this change is due to safety reasons, there are numerous benefits that will occur by allowing this area to revert to a naturalized state. The process of naturalization opens up other possibilities to enhance the area, including planting of trees, shrubs or wildflowers, where suitable.

Other reasons for naturalization conversions are for environmental enhancement purposes or are located within land utilities.  

If we learn of a programmed activity or community use occurring within an area selected for naturalization, there is the option to adjust the mowing boundaries. In these locations, we are committed to work with communities through the Public Engagement Process to establish the best land use options for landscape management.  
 

The City reduced mowing for a lot of parks at the start of the summer in 2020. Is this the same as naturalization?

No. These are not naturalized sites. They will return to their regular maintenance frequency as soon as we are able to. Naturalization sites are an intentional, planned operation, where mowing stops and the grass is allowed to grow.

I’ve noticed that water trucks are watering naturalized (long grass) locations. Why are you doing this? I’ve also noticed that watering continues even though it’s been raining, can you please let me know why?

Yes, we water naturalized sites in locations where we’ve recently planted trees, shrubs and wildflowers.  We water to support the establishment and growth of these plants.  As part of our program we monitor rainfall and ensure that our contracted watering trucks only water sites where soil moisture levels indicate watering is needed. In situations where greater than 10 mm of rain accumulates in a single day, water trucks will be shut down until it is suitable to continue watering again. Sites along roadways receive a bi-weekly watering schedule and may be watered for up to three years after planting for establishment.

Is the Anthony Henday part of this plan?

The land around the Anthony Henday is considered a Transportation and Utility Corridor (TUC).  The majority of this land is property of and managed by the Province of Alberta; therefore the Anthony Henday is not part of this plan - although some adjacent lands near the Anthony Henday that is City of Edmonton property may be part of this plan.

How many hectares are mowed in the city?

The City maintains more than 4274 hectares across the entire city. This includes the visible grassy areas you see throughout the city, plus additional, less travelled but still maintained areas.
 

Naturalization and Me

You’re removing park space that we used to play on. What other recreation can we do if we don’t feel comfortable near the tall grass and naturalized area?

Most areas that are naturalized are considered as passive recreational land. Many areas are along roadways, utility corridors, storm water facilities, or are selected to help buffer and protect environmentally sensitive areas, for example: tree stands, creeks and ravines. However, naturalized areas also provide opportunities for nature activities and education, such as wildlife observation.

There are many parks and open space areas in Edmonton to enjoy.  The City has also launched a digital map, DiscoverYEG, to help find off-leash dog areas, playgrounds, public washrooms, information on river valley trails, local restaurants and hotels, bike routes and more.  

While outside please remember to follow all public health guidelines from Alberta Health, including physical distancing.

Will naturalization near my house reduce my property value?

While there is a noticeable visual change during the first stages of naturalization, which may cause these areas to appear messy, overtime, as the area matures, naturalized areas become a source of interest and beauty. At this time, there is no indication that naturalized areas negatively impact property values.
 

  • There are many benefits of naturalization
  • Trees play an essential role in the environmental quality and biodiversity of the city, and contribute to the livability of our neighbourhoods; diverse, attractive landscaping and plant material helps reduce the visual impact of new development
  • For information: 2020 Property Assessment explained, see page 13 for naturalization
Does the City control dandelions in naturalized sites with herbicides?

Mowing regularly or naturalizing are the two best controls for dandelions in parkland. Dandelions will be outcompeted by the long grass once it matures. This can be seen along roadways in established natural areas. Dandelions are not a legislated noxious or prohibited noxious weed and therefore we do not control this species using herbicides.

I’m seeing more weed species growing in naturalized areas, is this normal?

Yes, this is a normal change observed in newly converted naturalized locations. During the first few years of naturalization it is normal to see an increase in weed presence . Weeds are opportunistic. They were maintained during mowing however, once mowing is stopped they are fast to grow. Once the grass catches up in growth they are outcompeted for light and resources. The presence of weeds will gradually diminish over many years as they are crowded out by grasses. 

The City of Edmonton controls weeds that are legislated with various methods in naturalized areas including hand pulling, mechanical trimming, herbicides and biological controls.

Why is naturalization happening in dog off-leash areas?

There are many benefits to naturalization in these areas.

  • Naturalization provides dogs and their owners with different sensory experiences from walking on a trail or mowed grass. As well as new smells and textures, naturalization can provide shade or windbreaks to make the off-leash experience more enjoyable for both dogs and humans. 
  • Naturalization also helps to break up sightlines between dogs so that interactions between dogs can be more controlled by owners. 
  • Regardless of whether an off-leash area is naturalized, dog owners are still responsible for cleaning up after their dogs. Peace Officers monitor off-leash areas and will fine dog owners that fail to pick up after their pets.
Does naturalization increase the amount of rodents in my area?

Naturalization may attract nesting or movement of voles and rodents in the area, and into yards. This is part of the increased biodiversity of the area as it becomes more natural. 

Where we’re able to, crews mow the fence line to help reduce areas where rodents can burrow and encroach into private land.  In locations where it is unsafe for a fence line cut we advise the citizen to reduce the green habitat or hiding places such as log piles in their own yard. The City does not set rodent traps. 

Will coyotes increase in my neighbourhood because of naturalization?

Coyotes are found all over the city and they are a natural wildlife species. Coyotes play a beneficial role as scavengers and are effective at managing rodent populations. Coyotes are only one of our local animal species, others include white tailed deer, moose and beavers. It is important that we learn to  live alongside our natural environment. For more information on coyotes (and other wildlife) in the city please visit Urban Wildlife.

The City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta have partnered in ongoing research called The Edmonton Urban Coyote Project that provides information to promote coexistence between people and wildlife. For more information or to get involved!

Just so you know Urban Wildlife

What are the benefits of naturalization?

There are several benefits to naturalization - spanning environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. Some benefits include: the ability for native birds, plants and wildlife to reestablish themselves, a reduction in maintenance costs and the ability for native shrubs and grass to catch rainwater, reducing the risk of flooding. These landscapes also become a source of beauty, with shaded areas and a space for citizens to become involved in environmental programs. Green spaces also contribute to increased mental wellbeing and lower stress.

Does naturalization increase the risk of a fire in these areas?

In the spring (fire season begins on March 1 in Alberta), there is an increased risk of fire because vegetation in all areas (grass, dead leaves, and dry conifers) is at its driest, which is better fuel for a fire. Once the grass and trees begin to get moisture and become green the risk of fire decreases significantly, but there is always a fire risk when vegetation is present.

Different types of naturalized areas have different risks of fire, and it depends on the fuel load. Grasslands and deciduous forest stands have less fuel loads because grasses have smaller fine parts and they have a lower overall fire risk and intensity when fire does occur because they burn quickly and cannot hold a fire for long. Deciduous trees such as Aspen trees, are considered fire-resistant plants because they do not readily ignite. Coniferous (pine or spruce) tree stands and longer grass burn more quickly than shrubs and deciduous trees. In the thick wooded wildlands, there are more fuels and tree resins which allow fires to burn for longer and at a higher temperature, which is more dangerous.

Fire risk is reduced within the city as a result of increased citizen reporting, water sources accessible throughout the city, and accessibility of sites via Edmonton’s road and path network allow Edmonton Fire Rescue Services to respond quickly to incidents within the city.

We all have an important role to play in reducing fire risk. Citizens can help prevent fires in naturalized areas by:

  • Calling 911 if they see smoke or fire
  • Refraining from smoking in natural, naturalized and vegetation-covered areas
  • Safely disposing cigarettes in fire safe containers
  • Observing all fire ban rules by not using unauthorized fire pits in parks or natural areas

For more information, visit:

Are you planning to use pesticides and / or herbicides to manage weeds?

Keeping our city "green" means respecting the environment. We are committed to weed management practices that make economic and environmental sense. As outlined in our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy, the City minimizes the use of pesticides and uses them responsibly when they are required.

Research into biological rather than chemical weed control is being pursued. Only when necessary is herbicide applied to control noxious weeds, and weeds that would impact safety and enjoyment of our green spaces. Broadleaf weeds are managed on active turf, such as sports fields to reduce slip and trip risks.

All herbicide applications meet environmental protection legislation and broadleaf weed control standards established by City Council. Strict safety precautions are taken to protect public, employees and environmental health.

Naturalization is a vegetation management strategy used wherever appropriate to control and prevent weeds.  Once a naturalization site that has been planted with native trees and shrubs is established, the tall trees and shrubs provide too much shade for weeds to grow.

For more information, read about our commitment to the environment.

Getting Involved

How can I get involved in tree planting?

You can get involved with tree planting through the Root for Trees Program which offers the following opportunities:

For more information visit Root for Trees, call 311, or email citytrees@edmonton.ca.

How can I get involved in naturalization?

Opportunities for engagement include: participation in community meetings, surveys, and booking a volunteer planting shift with Root for Trees or attending one of the special events. 

We all play a role to care for our natural areas. Do not dump yard debris in natural or naturalized areas. This increases the available fuel for fires.

    
For more information, visit:

We all have an important role to play in reducing fire risk. Citizens can help prevent fires in naturalized areas by:

  • Calling 911 if they see smoke or fire
  • Refraining from smoking in natural, naturalized and vegetation-covered areas
  • Safely disposing cigarettes in fire safe containers
  • Observing all fire ban rules by not using unauthorized fire pits in parks or natural areas

For More Information

311 Contact Centre

Online Contact 311 Online
Telephone

In Edmonton: 311
Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

TTY 780-944-5555

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