If the grass in public spaces feels a little shaggy beneath your feet, you can rest assured it’s by design.
After concerned community member Brandyce Barnes sent an email to the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) to complain about the grass being cut in parks and green spaces during No Mow May, the Public Works department has decided to put away its mowers.
No Mow May is a voluntary program from the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO) aiming to promote biodiversity by encouraging residents not to cut their grass for the duration of May.
This time of year is critical in the life cycle of pollinators, who benefit from the natural food sources provided by unkempt lawns.
“I think it’s a decent initiative,” said Brendan Montour, director of Public Works, one of three high-ranking employees to receive the letter.
“We said, well, we can forgo this,” he continued. “It’s not a big deal. We thought about it, and it’s not going to cause any safety concerns or anything like that. It was a pretty easy decision to make.”
For his part, Montour has not cut his own grass this month.
The department thought perhaps some residents would take issue if the grass in public spaces wasn’t being cut, but so far, no complaints have been lodged. The department now plans to participate every year.
Taking part in No Mow May has also freed up workers to catch up on other duties, such as picking up garbage - especially where snow piles once stood - and clearing broken trees.
According to Montour, the department is considering other modest ways to support the environment, such as switching to electric instead of gas-powered mowers.
“I believe it’s important for Public Works and our community, our people, to lead by example,” said Barnes.
“We are supposed to be caretakers of this land. How does that make us look when we are the ones helping to destroy it?”
In addition to sending the letter, Barnes has launched a petition urging the MCK to adhere to a slate of recommendations she believes would boost sustainability and accountability. To date, it has garnered 35 signatures.
Barnes is grateful that Public Works has chosen to participate in the KEPO initiative, a move she sees as a step forward for the community.
“We may have had a lot of our culture ripped away from us, but the roots are still there,” she said. “The respect for the land has to still be there. If not, then who are we?”
KEPO is embracing the commitment from Public Works to stop cutting grass in May.
“We at KEPO are very happy to welcome all contributions to protecting and advocating for pollinators and the environment,” said Onawa K. Jacobs, general manager of environment protection at KEPO.
“Whether that’s on the individual level or services provided by MCK, all smaller actions add up to a bigger positive impact for Mother Earth.”
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door