In 2021 the City began the process of naturalizing 150 hectares of stormwater management facility land. This naturalization process will be paused in 2022 and mowing will be re-initiated in some of these areas until Public Engagement has been completed and a new Naturalization Plan developed. This will not impact other naturalization projects implemented by the City or other organizations. Mowing in targeted areas will begin again throughout May and June. If nesting birds are present, some sites might not be mowed until late summer or early fall.
Naturalization around stormwater management facilities contributes to, and aligns with, updated landscaping standards for these areas, as well as the City Plan, ensuring we have a healthy, climate-resilient city for future generations.
In these areas specifically, naturalization carries several important benefits including protecting banks from erosion and capturing rainwater, reducing stormwater runoff which will avoid overloading drainage systems and reducing the risk of flooding. These facilities are also important habitat for pollinators, birds and small animals.
Since 2014, nearly 280 hectares (4.38%) of City-maintained parkland has been naturalized or has begun the process of being naturalized. This includes roadways, stormwater ponds, and parkland.
Where possible, in locations not too steep or wet, the City mows a buffer strip (1 metre wide strip of grass) between a naturalized area and a residential fence to discourage animals from crossing over into private property. Most smaller rodents rely on vegetation as cover to hide, and will stay within the taller grass in a naturalized area. Mowing this buffer also helps prevent tall grass or other plants in the naturalized area, moving into private property.
During the initial transition you can expect to see long grasses followed by the sparse establishment of small trees and shrubs. Sites that have poor establishment, or where additional trees and shrubs are suitable (provide environmental, social or beautification benefits), will be considered for infill planting in the following years. Planting trees and shrubs in naturalized areas builds on many of the same benefits that the naturalization process already creates and contributes to the City's goal of planting 2 million trees by 2050.
Naturalization tree and shrub species will be selected to align with City of Edmonton Landscape and Design Standards. Pond sites typically have more moisture in comparison to other sites and plants will be selected with the ability to absorb water through extensive root systems. Depending on the site conditions it can be expected that willow will be planted as a common species.
Naturalization contributes to and aligns with updated landscaping standards for these areas, contributes to biodiversity and supports the City Plan by ensuring we have a healthy, climate resilient city for future generations. Residents may be able to take part in planting trees and shrubs in some naturalized areas through the Root for Trees volunteer tree planting program.