There are three stages to the naturalization process:
1. The first step is to stop mowing. Grass will grow long, naturally reducing the appearance of broad-leaf weeds like dandelions. City crews will continue to monitor and maintain the area, removing litter and controlling noxious weeds. This stage usually lasts for one to two years.
2. The second step is to plant trees and shrubs native to Alberta in areas suitable for planting. This step will help to establish a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Over time, small groups of trees will mature into natural tree stands, enhancing the beauty of the landscape.
3. The third step is to enhance the habitat. Smaller native trees, shrubs and wildflowers will promote biodiversity and give wildlife resources they need to thrive.
“A naturalized landscape provides a lot of benefits to citizens,” says Nicole Fraser, Management Supervisor, Beautification and Greening with the City of Edmonton. “Obviously, fewer mowing cycles means a reduction in emissions, and we also save money.”
But the benefits go much deeper than that. “Long grass, trees and shrubs capture rain water, reducing stormwater runoff, which prevents an overloaded drainage system and decreases flood risk. Tree roots also stabilize slopes along river banks, reducing erosion,” Fraser explains.
“Native plants, birds and other wildlife have the habitat they need to thrive; plants can also provide food for pollinator species and birds. Plants also reduce atmospheric greenhouse gasses, clean the air and maintain oxygen levels required to support life.”
Naturalization also has the potential to improve citizen quality of life. Naturalized sites are beautiful places to enjoy the outdoors -- walking, picnicking and berry picking. Studies have also shown that time in nature improves relaxation and mental health. And over time, as trees mature, noise reduction in densely planted areas will be an added benefit. Citizens will be able to enjoy all the perks of nature without leaving city limits.
Naturalized sites are scattered throughout the city. Visit edmonton.ca/naturalization to learn more about naturalization and see a map of naturalized sites. Many naturalized areas will also be noted with signs in the coming weeks.