Cut in service: $1M trimmed from Edmonton's weed control budget

·3 min read
Creeping bellflower is a common weed in Edmonton and one of the ones the city is required to attempt to contain and eradicate.  (Wallis Snowdon/CBC - image credit)
Creeping bellflower is a common weed in Edmonton and one of the ones the city is required to attempt to contain and eradicate. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC - image credit)

Some Edmonton parks may look a little more wild this year as the city cuts its weed control budget by $1.14 million again in 2021.

The reduction means city crews won't pull weeds manually in certain areas but use herbicides instead when necessary, a new city report says.

Before 2020, the city weeded grassy areas along roadways and flower beds in neighbourhood parks twice a season but now they will do the job once.

Popular parks and business improvement areas will continue to get the same standard service, with crews out five times in the season, about once a month.

Coun. Ben Henderson said under the city's integrated pest management policy, the city is supposed to find the least invasive ways of weeding first, before considering cost.

"I was a little bit alarmed when we have a report back that really seems to be more driven by what's cheapest and what's easiest and not necessarily what's safest," Henderson said.

He asked to see a breakdown of how the budget cuts are impacting the city's ability to control weeds, after council first cut the budget last year during COVID-19 pandemic.

Travis Kennedy, general supervisor of the city's open space operations, said the areas affected by the budget cut — called level B parks — are less visible and not as frequented by the public.

However, people will notice the cut in service, Kennedy told CBC News in an interview Thursday.

"Those beds will have the appearance of being slightly unkempt between our single cycle," Kennedy said. "So we will do our best to get out there one time this year."

While Alberta does not have cosmetic herbicide restrictions, Edmonton is one of the first municipalities in the province to pass a cosmetic herbicide restriction.

Canada Thistle is one of at several of invasive weeds they city is trying to control.
Canada Thistle is one of at several of invasive weeds they city is trying to control. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The city's policy, adopted in 2015, restricts use of herbicide for cosmetic purposes and that along with reduced service, led to more noxious plants, the report says.

"We may not be maintaining esthetic weeds to the level that people desire but we are doing our best to meet the service levels given our resourcing budget," Kennedy said.

The city is required to contain and attempt to eradicate regulated weeds, such as Canada thistle, creeping bellflower, leafy spurge and burdock.

"We are focusing in on the proliferation of regulated weeds, because that's where we want to put our focus."

The city posts a notification on its website outlining when and where the city is applying herbicides, he added.

Timing critical

Sheldon Zhang, is a co-founder of local lawn care company Yardly, said it's no secret that herbicides are a much cheaper way of dealing with weeds than manual removal.

His company uses a combination of methods throughout the season and doubts one application would be effective.

"The timing would be super critical," Zhang said in an interview Thursday. "I don't imagine the city can apply that one application at the right time for all the fields across the city."

Applying too early or too late in the season would impact the effectiveness of eliminating the weeds.

"Maybe in the short term they see that as a benefit but in the long run, they may have to put in more efforts to maybe manually pull those weeds or reseed the grass down the road more frequently," Zhang said.

Council's community and public services committee will discuss the report at a meeting May 28.

@natashariebe