Healing Gaia

Another Burlington Pollinator Paradise Threatened by Anti-Environmental By-Law

It's time for the City of Burlington to stop destroying naturalized landscapes and to devise a plan to educate residents on the benefits of getting rid of their outdated, high-maintenance, grass-covered yards.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published August 16, 2019

Yesterday I told you about 'Antheia' and her naturalized garden the City of Burlington wants cut to less than eight inches or 20 cm in height as per the by-law for grass on front yards. Antheia lives in Ward 6.

As soon as that story appeared on Raise the Hammer, I received an email from Paul Raun, who lives in Ward 1 in Burlington. Paul has had a naturalized area in his front yard for the past seven years. He and his partner took great care choosing native plants purchased from nurseries specializing in indigenous wildflowers and shrubs.

About three-quarters of Paul's front yard has been naturalized and is home to over 23 kinds of wildflowers, 12 types of shrubs and vines, three varieties of wild grasses, a sycamore and a redbud tree.

Paul says, "Apart from the few plants the wind and animals spread into our garden, we purchased our wildflowers from reputable, and qualified, nurseries who specialize in indigenous plants such as South Coast Nursery near Turkey Point in Norfolk County and Grand Moraine Nursery northwest of Elora. As to our commitment to care for the garden, we spent under $200.00 to inoculate our ash tree in the front yard against Emerald Ash Borer in July 2019."

Another threatened pollinator paradise (Image Credit: Paul Raun)
Another threatened pollinator paradise (Image Credit: Paul Raun)

On August 14, 2019 at 12:54 PM, Paul received a notice that he was in violation of By-Law 59-2018, which states grass and ground cover must be cut to a height less than eight inches or 20 cm.

Paul says, "I discovered the notice hanging from our mailbox. I phoned the City's By-Law Enforcement Department and I was told to get in touch with By-law Enforcement Officer Natalie Watson. I did and I had to leave a voicemail. As of early Thursday morning, I have not received a reply. Later Thursday morning, I left a second voicemail message asking for clarification on which plants in our yard constitute weeds and how can we rectify this. As of late Thursday afternoon, I have not received a reply."

In the Notice of Violation, the By-Law Enforcement Officer wrote the required action is to: "Cut and remove over grown weed [sic] on entire property." However, Paul points out, "The officer made no reference to what kind of plants make for a 'weed.' We regularly remove weeds as well as less-desirable grasses like twitch grass from our yard and neatly trim the grape vine on the south border fence." Paul also has a two-foot border of traditional grass between his garden and the roadway.

Paul and his partner have planted and nurtured/stewarded native species that attract pollinators and encourage other forms of wildlife to take refuge.

According to Paul, "In the spring of 2013 before we started preparing our native plants garden, we had no Monarch butterflies coming to reside in our yard. By 2016, after the native plants garden was starting to fill in with the arrival of milkweed and spreading of New England aster, Monarch butterflies started staying in our yard during the summer. Crickets have also come back to live in our garden every year." Paul also sees a wide variety of local birds as well as birds taking a rest during their migration.

It was only on April 23 that Burlington City council unanimously passed Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan's motion to declare a Climate Emergency. So why is the City taking aim at naturalized gardens?

These gardens don't require gas or electric lawn mowing or leaf blowing of grass trimmings or leaves, and can survive solely on rainwater while providing essential plants for pollinators and safe spaces for other types of wildlife. In fact, all of the naturalized gardens I've visited in Burlington were organic and not reliant on petrochemical-based pesticides or fertilizers, which play havoc with the environment and human health.

It's time for the City of Burlington to stop destroying naturalized landscapes and to devise a plan to educate residents on the benefits of getting rid of their outdated, high-maintenance, grass-covered yards. With an abundance of knowledge from local environmental leaders and rewilding experts like Vince Fiorito and naturalized gardeners Paul Raun and his partner, what are they waiting for?

Paul has until August 21 to save his garden. For those who want to move Burlington toward a planet friendly future, please contact the Mayor and Councillors:

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2019 at 10:12:19

My initial reactions were that this post is more appropriately filed under EXTREMISM rather than HEALING GAIA and I wonder which nursery sold that Queen Anne's Lace?

Anyhow, a truly yet unruly form of naturalization is one where the land is left fallow. That is when it is allowed to produce what it will without human intervention. It is unruly because the vast majority of residents in Burlington, who can afford the high cost of real estate and high property taxes, appreciate their neighbours maintaining prim and proper landscapes and keeping their homes in good repair. These actions by their neighbours ensure that property values remain unusually high in the immediate vicinity. Any property and therefore any property owner that does not adhere to this standard is viewed as unruly and could be considered EXTREMIST. By-laws are enacted that create and enforce these standards for the good of all residents.

My riding mower has six settings from 1 to 6 inches and I feel that an 8 inch maximum is very generous. Paul, if he were an intuitive individual, could find ground covers that do not exceed 8 to 12 inches in a growing season. If flowers are desired, Adonis and Aster are a good choice. If a simple low-maintenance covering is sought, Spurge is a good choice. However, if Paul wants the neighbours to like him, then he should plant Creeping Bent and buy/borrow/rent a push mower to keep the front lawn trimmed but hold your breath while you mow; We cannot emit too much excessive CO2, can we? All green life be damned.

I have milkweed, lots and lots of 6 to 8 foot high milkweed in my BACKYARD. Milkweed produces exquisite pink blooms for about two weeks in early summer that absolutely rivals lilacs with their soft warm aroma and of course, they attract swarms of Monarchs. But milkweed produce many pods per plant that burst open in late winter filling the air with thousands of seed that travel all over the neighbourhood. These neighbours in turn must increase their herbicide applications in an effort to kill these WEEDS, which Paul clearly is opposed to. Monarchs be damned.

If Paul wants to be a real thorn in the neighbourhoods eyes, propagate bull thistle. Gold finches love this thistle and everybody LOVES gold finches with their cute little songs. Or plant stinging nettles, these will make city workers think twice about trespassing again, but may cause the city to dose the property with agent orange in the future. I know Paul would not like that.

Now what about those "animals" that "spread" seed? What animals exactly? Coon, possum, skunk, rabbit, chipmunk, squirrel or field mouse, mole and rat? Any one of these critters can in it's own right rile even the friendliest neighbour when they get out of control. You cannot simply naturalize an entire environment from a small city parcel unless you and all your neighbours get out and let nature take its course. See the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters for examples of this.

I recommend HEALING GAIA in the privacy of your own BACKYARD. Keep the illusion of high property values and the necessity for high property taxes alive and well in your FRONTYARD. Do not HATE your neighbours with your EXTREMISM. Make them like you by pretending you are like them. When a nail sticks out, we RAISETHEHAMMER and knock IT back down.

Thanks for sharing.

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted August 18, 2019 at 11:53:38

To WRCU2 - "My initial reactions were that this post is more appropriately filed under EXTREMISM rather than HEALING GAIA".

REALLY? Because someone wanted to plant some flowers and herbs, and refuses to go along with the 'cult' of a perfect lawn (and all the negative consequences like fertilizer, pesticides, noise and air pollution from lawn mowers see below for details).

And you call Paul and Extremist??

This statement says al lot about where you are coming from: "My riding mower has six settings from 1 to 6 inches and I feel that an 8 inch maximum is very generous." Well how very generous of you to declare what is 'generous' for plant height.

You joke about emitting CO2 "...hold your breath while you mow; We cannot emit too much excessive CO2, can we? All green life be damned." but you sit on a riding mower. Right. That makes complete sense. You may not be aware but small engines (lawn mowers, gas powered leaf blowers, snow throwers) do not have pollution controls like automobiles do, do. In fact one article that summarizes many others makes claims that one hour of push mowing (gasoline) = driving a car up to 350 miles. Worse for riding mowers like you. Others claim less mileage but it's splitting hairs. Because my opinions are based on FACTS and SCIENCE, (vs. straight-from-the-gut feelings) I will reference that claim here: https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/colu...

FULL DISCLOSURE: I own and use a gasoline-powered snow thrower(rarely these days probably due to warmer winters) (ah, that would be something called 'climate change'). I use it sparingly and shovel when I can. Both my wife and I hurt our backs about a decade ago shovelling very heavy snow so we made the decision to purchase. However, since lawns are generally useless unless you are a croquet fanatic, we removed our lawns and planted shrubs and native plants that require no fertilizers, pesticides, or even water except in extreme circumstances - water I harvest from my garage roof.

Your comment is full of contradictions if not oddities:

  • i.e you plant milkweed to help the Monarchs (good) then state, oddly that due to seed spread, your neighbours "must increase their herbicide applications in an effort to kill these WEEDS,..."

    • Are they weeds or are they not? MUST your neighbour use herbicides? Maybe they are old school and simply pull the offending 'weeds/plants' out? Maybe they are new school and actually welcome the milkweed.

    • "appreciate their neighbours maintaining prim and proper landscapes and keeping their homes in good repair". Are you implying that because someone chooses to have a natural garden, that they are slobs who do not keep their home in good repair?

    • Evidence please? It seems you harbour a prejudice against people with natural gardens and that you are projecting other negative traits on them.

    • "Any property and therefore any property owner that does not adhere to this standard is viewed as unruly and could be considered EXTREMIST. By-laws are enacted that create and enforce these standards for the good of all residents."

    • Are the standards based on facts and scientific knowledge of what is good for people and the environment or are they based on those who seek to impose their idea of what is prim and proper (a pristine lawn like you see in tv ads) - an straying from this 'ideal' i considered 'unruly' and (??) EXTREMIST? Applying fertilizer (much of which washes off and ends up in our storm sewers, then in our lakes and eventually in our drinking water), in addition to herbicides and pesticides is a threat to human and animal life. Are you really that infatuated with a 'perfect' lawn that you swill subject your kids, your neighbours and yourself to carcinogenic chemicals just so you can have a better lawn than the Jones' next door?

    • "Or plant stinging nettles, these will make city workers think twice about trespassing again, but may cause the city to dose the property with agent orange in the future. I know Paul would not like that".

    • You seem to want to be taken seriously then lapse into silly comments like this.

    • "Now what about those "animals" that "spread" seed? What animals exactly? Coon, possum, skunk, rabbit, chipmunk, squirrel or field mouse, mole and rat? Any one of these critters can in it's own right rile even the friendliest neighbour when they get out of control".

    • I don't particularly welcome racoons, rats, moles and skunks, but have not had many issues with them. And what about rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels? If you believe in 'nature' then surely you realize that we are sharing a habitat with other living creatures. Try a 'live and let live' philosophy and stop worrying about things 'getting out of control'. (not even sure what is meant by 'out of control').

    • "Keep the illusion of high property values and the necessity for high property taxes alive and well in your FRONTYARD."
      and "It is unruly because the vast majority of residents in Burlington, who can afford the high cost of real estate and high property taxes, appreciate their neighbours maintaining prim and proper landscapes...".

    • So really, your argument is mainly about keeping up high property values (and taxes?) not so much environmental concerns that negatively affect human and animal life. It is often about money - under another guise.

    • "Do not HATE your neighbours with your EXTREMISM. Make them like you by pretending you are like them. When a nail sticks out, we RAISETHEHAMMER and knock IT back down."

    • I see no evidence that Paul or his partner HATE their neighbours. It is you that have brought up the word HATE and EXTREMISM several times. You also council Paul to 'pretend' to like his neighbours. I would think Paul is more genuine than that. Regarding 'hammering nails that stick out', well you've tipped your hand several times in your comments in that you are intolerant of anyone who does not 'adhere to the rules'. Have you considered that maybe you have dislike of your neighbours since you seem so eager to tell them what they should, and should not do with their yards, and how generous you are in permitting them that pleasure.

Comment edited by positive1@cogeco.ca on 2019-08-18 12:19:31

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