UPDATE Sept 3 2020: Council supported the staff recommendation to apply to the Bee City Initiative and commence a pilot program of naturalization of several parks in the Town of Midland (see below).
While I support the concept, my concerns are in our implementation and the fact that we are not extending this to our residents, whose participation (unless we change the bylaws) would result in fines. This inequality and lack of desire to include the residents made it impossible for me to support the motion. It passed none-the-less.
Here are my talking points that I shared with my peers last night:
I am hearing concerns relating to the look of our town. Simply not mowing will not magically produce fields of pollinator friendly wild flowers. Having a town that looks unkept to residents and visitors who don’t take the time to look at small signs describing the logic for the overgrowth on parkland is not the image that most people want to project for Midland. We proudly display that we were once, long ago, Communities in Bloom champions, and parklands that look like hay fields don’t align with one’s expectations.
The concept of becoming a bee-city is great and I support that initiative, just as neighbours in Orillia, Barrie and other municipalities and regions across Canada have done. The concept of naturalizing some of our greenspaces saves us time, effort, tax money and helps the environment. Those are all good reasons.
My concerns revolve around our implementation. Our parks department is a shadow of its former self. Our flowers, gardening and general care of parks and parkettes have not been priorities for a few years before COVID.
I’d like to see the revival of our parks department or maybe a collaborative (citizen / staff) parks commission to further consider this initiative, carefully plan, consider and reconsider the no-mow zones as well as how to ensure that pollinator friendly species are planted and nurtured in harmony with the increased usage that we see with residents enjoying outdoor spaces. Much like how we let our playground equipment fall into disrepair, our lack of focus on our parks has been brought clearly into focus during this pandemic.
The next topic that seems to be missing from this report is how we can involve our residents beyond simply steering them to our website. What about our property standards bylaws? In a letter on this agenda, by resident Linda Hillman, we are urged to consider allowing residents to participate by naturalizing their lawns and properties as the Town is proposing to do, which would currently put them in conflict with our bylaws. I would like to see our bylaws change to align with this initiative so that the Town and residents can participate in tandem. Without allowing our residents to participate, I cannot support an initiative that breeds inequality with our residents. As the saying goes, what’s good for the goose must be good for the gander.
If we could amend this motion to include the revision of our bylaws to include our resident’s rights to participate with us, I will support this tonight. If we are instead to keep our residents under our thumb around property standards while we stop tending to our own green spaces (in the name of savings and the environment) I cannot support this right now until we align with our community.
The concept is good but the chosen implementation strategy does not invite our community to join us a stakeholders or legalize their participation, even though perhaps only a small number may choose to participate, they should have the right to do so.
Should Midland’s Parkland Become “Bee City” Pollinator Friendly Sites?
Council will consider a staff report that recommends that we join Orillia, Barrie and other Canadian municipalities in the Bee City initiative. What does this mean for many of Midland’s parks?
Read the full report here or the excerpts below: https://midland.civicweb.net/document/16406/CSR-2020-12%20No%20Mow%20and%20Naturalization%20Sites.pdf?handle=DB09B26CC8ED4B259C2F87FF8954DA44
Here is some news coverage from Barrie Today: https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/city-itching-to-bring-natural-buzz-to-lakeshore-park-2028807
Those of you who follow me in politics know that I have been advocating for many of our residents who were dismayed at the shape of our parkland this summer along with lack of cleanliness and garbage collection. This was partly due to the pandemic, but as I reminded town executives, we never laid off or terminated any of our full time staff, choosing instead to keep them gainfully and meaningfully employed. It took until only a few weeks ago to get to parks and trails maintenance and there is still much work left to do although we are now at the end of the season.
Some, perhaps even many, will see this pollinator designation as licence to do less maintenance to our parks and trails and let the town look wild and overgrown (as it did this summer). Furthermore, concerns are raised about Lyme disease and the ticks that carry it, who thrive in tall grasses and attach themselves to unsuspecting legs of passers by. Lyme disease is a horrible and incurable disease.
Is that threat alone enough to mow everything to golf green standards? Of course not. I am concerned about this plan’s implementation and how our town will look. I am equally concerned at the proposed parks in the report. Edgehill Park, Midland Bay Landing and Little Lake Park are parks in Midland that seem to be top of mind with many (perhaps most) Midland residents.
What about our resident’s lawns? What about our property standards bylaws?
Please read over the report and bring me your comments and concerns in advance of the meeting next Wednesday evening.