Environment File

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Residents didn’t exactly turn out in droves last weekend for St. Albert’s first-ever citywide cleanup, but its organizers are still calling it a success.

About 157 people turned out for the first annual City-Wide Cleanup, according to city community recreation co-ordinator Erin Gluck. The event saw volunteers fan out across the city to clean up trash on Saturday and Sunday.

The turnout was far below the 359 who came out to last May’s Clean Up the Sturgeon event, of which this was an offshoot.

“We were probably a little optimistic for the first time out,” said Gluck, who had hoped for about 500 or so participants. It’s taken years of promotion to get the Sturgeon cleanup to its current size, she noted, and this one might have suffered from bad timing — many school and Scout groups simply weren’t ready for an event this early in the school year.

“This was a success this year,” she said, “and we’ll just keep building on it for future years.”

Volunteers did collect some 430 kilograms (76 bags or half a garbage truck) of trash, Gluck noted.

Gluck was now collecting feedback from neighbourhood captains to figure out how to improve the event for next year.

Woodlands will get a little less woody this fall as the city’s poplar replacement program chops into the neighbourhood.

The city announced this week that starting in November it would be cutting down about 170 hybrid poplar trees spread amongst the North Ridge, Akinsdale and Woodlands neighbourhoods. Most directly affected residents in these regions were told of the removal in September.

The cuttings are part of the city’s ongoing hybrid poplar replacement program that has been running since 2001, said Bruce Thompson, manager of municipal operations at public works.

“What we’re looking at are aged hybrid poplars,” he emphasized, which were planted in the 1970s. While they look nice and grow fast, these trees are notorious for cracking pavement with their roots and crushing cars with their heavy, easily snapped branches. “It’s a huge liability issue for the city.”

Crews will prepare the trees for removal in October and take them out from November to February, Thompson said. “All of them are in bad shape,” he said, and some may already be hollowed out by rot.

The trees will be replaced by other species next summer, Thompson said. Until then, there will likely be some noticeable gaps in the canopy in these regions. North Ridge won’t be as bad, as crews had enough room to plant some replacement trees in advance.

The poplar removal program is set for completion in 2015. About 1,000 trees have been removed to date.

Questions should go to Thompson at 780-459-1723.

The city is flush out of cash for its toilet rebate program, but it might top up the tank again next year.

The city’s low-flow toilet rebate program was tapped out as of the end of August, city environmental manager Leah Jackson told the Environmental Advisory Committee this week. The $30,000 fund, which opened in late March, gave residents $50 to $75 if they replaced an old toilet with a low- or dual-flush model.

Residents replaced about 375 toilets under the program, Jackson said in an interview, saving a little over two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water a year in the process.

“There’s definitely an appetite out there for people who want retrofits,” she said, and she planned to ask council to renew the program during this fall’s budget debate. If funded, the rebates would be available again next spring.

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