Environmental grants back green projects

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Grants for white spruce, fish, strawberries

St. Albert will have more trees, strawberries and yellow fish next year now that city council has signed off on its latest environmental grants.

Council approved $33,450 in Environmental Initiatives grants Monday after a brief debate. The annual grant backs community projects that support the city’s environmental goals.

The Grey Nuns White Spruce Park Working Group got the biggest grant at $10,065.43.

This cash will help the group expand the white spruce forest along Ray Gibbon Dr. and eliminate a patch of invasive Manitoba maple in the middle of it, said working group member Peter Murphy. Those maples spread aggressively, and crews will likely need at least two years to pull and cut all of them.

The group has received about $30,765 in grants since 2014, which was a considerable chunk of the grant funding, noted the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee, which oversees the grant. The committee called on council to find a new source of funding for the white spruce park in order to continue supporting innovative projects through the grant.

The intent is for the city to take over management of the park at some point, said working group member Daryl D’Amico. Once that happens, the city would likely need about $10,000 a year to continue park development and reforestation.

City recreation and parks director Diane Enger told council that she would likely ask for a budget commitment for this park in 2018.

“It’s developing as a city park, and we need to be able to find the resources within our budget to manage this park.”

The Society of Friends for the St. Albert Botanic Park received $5,000 to install an irrigation system into its new heritage garden.

This garden will showcase plants that would have grown in St. Albert back in 1861 such as the Maltese cross (grows clusters of red asterisks), Shasta daisy and black-eyed Susan (yellow petals, black middle), said society member and veteran gardener John Beedle.

“They’re good sustainable ones and popular ones,” he said, and are better suited for Alberta’s climate compared to others.

The heritage garden is currently home to 500 red and 500 white tulip bulbs arranged in the pattern of the Canadian flag as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations, noted society member Margaret Plain.

“Hopefully, they will all come up at the same time!”

These bulbs might have to be moved when they install the irrigation system, Beedle said.

Trout Unlimited also got $5,000 to promote its Yellow Fish Road program to city schools. The program sees volunteers paint yellow fish on sewer grates to remind people not to dump oil and other toxins down the drain.

This program will help raise awareness of water pollution, said Environmental Advisory Committee chair Tanya Doran, who noted that this long-running program had kind of fallen off the radar in St. Albert.

“It’s important as a reminder to keep those toxins out of the stormwater system, out of our filtration systems and out of our future waterways.”

The Grandin Village Gardeners got $4,600 to expand their community garden. Coun. Bob Russell criticized this grant in council, saying that the group should do more to become self-sufficient.

St. Albert Urban Agriculture got about $1,235 to continue work on their community food forest, which seeks to promote sustainable local food production. Volunteers expect to harvest asparagus, strawberries, saskatoons and apples from the garden next year, said food forest organizer Jill Cunningham.

Bertha Kennedy, Marie Poburan, and Marguerite d’Youville schools also received grants to grow microgreens, expand an outdoor classroom and plant native plants, respectively.

A description of this year’s grants is available in the agenda package for the Nov. 28 council meeting at stalbert.ca/cosa/meetings/agendas-minutes-video.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.