Some city residents are asking council to take steps to ensure developers are more accountable when it comes to weed control.
Northridge resident Beth Endresen spoke to council last Tuesday (Sept. 6) about foxtail weeds in Grande Prairie.
She noted her and her neighbours’ frustrations with the weed bundling in backyards and along the street, causing safety concerns for themselves and their pets.
“This is a problem that's been ongoing for four years,” said Endresen.
Council directed administration to bring back a report on how to curtail the weed as well as potential enforcement actions, including placing it on the noxious weed list.*
Endresen said foxtail is bundling up in her yard, making a mess of her lawn, gathering around her home and creating hazards near the dryer vent.
“My deck is completely unusable, and then the hazard of the dryer vent, it's totally clogged, so I can't even use the dryer unless I go out there and shovel it out every single time,” said Endresen.
Cleanups have been difficult, she noted, saying it’s cleaned out one day only to have it piled up again the next.
She said she gathered more than 12 large yard waste bags in August.
“I don't even have that much grass clippings.”
“It wasn't as bad last year, I think just the dry, arid, windy weather this year has exacerbated the situation, but I certainly do not want to be dealing with this next year,” said Endresen.
“I had no idea of the severity that it was going to hit; it was horrible.”
Chelsey Rothwell has lived in the Northridge area for four years and says foxtails have been an ongoing issue since she moved in.
She also spoke to council and said she now realizes the issue affects many residents, after seeing complaints on social media and talking with other homeowners.
“The response was insane; people were sending photos of their yards and talking about their pets ending up in the vet from being injured from these foxtails,” said Rothwell.
She noted that one neighbour’s dog died from foxtail last year, and another had a costly vet bill of over $2,000 this year.
“I have two dogs, and the amount of time that I spend pulling foxtails out of their legs and arms every single day, it's ridiculous.”
After returning from a walk with her dogs, she said she spends about 10 minutes removing foxtails from her dog’s fur, a new routine she needs to do now every time she lets her dogs out to the yard as well.
“Depends on how windy it is, I pull anywhere from five to 10 foxtails out of their fur, and they’re little dogs, so I can't even imagine if I had big dogs,” she said.
The weed can be lethal to animals, she said, noting that they can get stuck in the animal's nasal cavity or intestines and then become infected and lead to death.
Endresen and her neighbours believe the problem stems from developers in the area who are not maintaining their empty lots.
She said one large lot has been of particular concern issue for many of the homeowners.
Endresen says she and her neighbours have contacted the developers, builders, and city bylaw.
“I'm actually quite happy with bylaw, but it's just that their hands are tied, they can only do so much, they fine the developer and the developer doesn't really care.
“The fines are pretty minimal, and it's cheaper to pay the fines than to spray for the foxtail.”
Rothwell says she’s contacted the developers as well.
“They (developers) just ignore me, and I left messages at their business, and they don't care; they don't return my calls,” said Rothwell.
City protective and social services director Chris Manuel said that the minimum fine of $1,000 is significant to a residential property owners, but to larger developers, it may not be more than the cost of remediation. He believes now is an opportune time to review the bylaw.
He explained the process is to first educate the accused on the bylaw requirements, and give a warning.
Following that, a remedial order would trigger a remediation step. The city bylaw department then has to file through the courts to receive a Notice of Entry to go on the property and clean it.
“I think the gap that needs to be closed is the duration of time between when the initial concerns are received and when the remedy occurs,” he said.
Manuel noted city departments are working together to better align with each other, including weed inspections and enforcement services.
Brian Glavin, infrastructure and economic development director, said foxtail could be challenging to control because, unlike dandelion and other broadleaf weeds, foxtail is a grass and products such as Round-up kill all plant life.
“I would like to see the developers be held accountable, and I would like to see this dealt with earlier in the year rather than happening in August when it's too late,” said Endresen.
Rothwell said she feels the neighbourhood has done as much as it can and hopes city council makes the needed adjustments and changes so that residents can enjoy their homes and not have to worry about their pets.
Town & Country News reached out to the developer of the Northridge lot of concern but as of press time did not receive a reply.
*Plants designated as noxious weeds have the ability to spread rapidly, cause severe crop losses and economic hardship. The province says the weed designation is a regulatory support for a containment stage of invasive plant management. A local authority may conduct control programs for noxious weeds (which include Canada thistle, common tansy, field bindweed, scentless chamomile and yellow clematis) if they feel they may have significant ecological or economic impact on lands within their municipality.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News