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Naturalized Park Spaces

You may have noticed some changes in a few of Lethbridge's parks this year. In an effort to reduce water consumption, increase native prairie plant populations and decrease the amount of manicured grass space that requires weekly mowing, pesticides and other special treatment, the City is testing the practice of planting native grass seed mixes in our parks.

A Little Background

  • Prairie grasslands have evolved to withstand the extreme weather of Southern Alberta. Harsh winters, hot dry summers and high winds are combated with deep roots, bright flowers and adaptions to reduce water loss.
  • Increasing the City's total area of native plant communities also increases habitat connectivity and safe wildlife movement through our urban areas.
  • Naturalized areas have been used around storm ponds and river valley parks for several years to increase water quality and wildlife habitat. 

  • Through the City of Lethbridge's Fiscal and Operational Performance Review, it was recommended to convert 100 Ha of park space to naturalized spaces.

The City of Lethbridge has teamed up with a local horticulture professional and the University of Lethbridge, Applied Studies Program to trial two separate seed blends, soil conditions, irrigation requirements and germination rates for successful establishment of native grasses in Lethbridge. Information gathered from these trials will help to efficiently further the use of native grasses in park planning and restoration projects. 

Three spaces around the city have been chosen to house test plots for this program:

  • Redwood Park (northwest corner).
  • 28 St N Green Strip (south of 7 Ave N).
  • Mt Blakiston Rd W Green Strip (across from Mt Crandell Park).
Using grasses native to our region provides many benefits for Lethbridge parks, neighbourhoods and the City as a whole. 

Benefits You Can See:

              • Native grasslands attract beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees, and so many more.
              • Native vegetation will also attract birds and other wildlife to the area.
              • Reduced maintenance costs once established:
                • Less mowing 
                • Less irrigation
                • Less fertilizing
                • Less pest control
              • Tall native grasses deter nuisance wildlife such Canada geese and ground squirrels.
Two seed mixes are being trialed in these plots, a tall growing mix and a short mix:
            Tall Mix                         Short Mix
30% Slender Wheatgrass          30% Junegrass
20% Western Wheatgrass         25% Blue Grama
15% Green Needle Grass          25% Green Needle
10% Streambank Wheat           20% Sheep Fescue
10% Junegrass
10% Blue Grama 

 

 

 

Below The Surface: Deep Roots 

  • Anchor precious topsoil, moisture and nutrients from high winds.
  • Absorb excess precipitation like a sponge in heavy storms and prevent flooding.
  • Filter out impurities such as hydrocarbons, pesticides and heavy metals before reaching waterways.
  • Remove sediments from storm water, keeping rivers and streams clean and clear.
  • Sequester and store carbon from the atmosphere. 

 

Have Patience…

These areas will require a little TLC to get started. Native seeds are a bit slower to germinate than traditional turf grasses, and as such, weeds will typically be observed for several weeks prior. These weeds provide cover for the starting seeds, sheltering them from wind. Weeds will be controlled at appropriate times throughout the project while balancing new grass growth and establishment.

 

For More Information

David Ellis
Parks Manager
403-320-3848
david.ellis@lethbridge.ca