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Naturalization

image of vetch and blue flax
Native vegetation such as vetch, blue flax and a variety of grasses grow in Calgary.

Naturalization is the process of transforming an open space, such as a lawn, into one that reflects the naturally-occurring landscape of the region. It involves the purposeful reintroduction of native species to an area to enhance the natural environment. Naturalization supports biodiversity conservation, which makes a positive contribution to our economy and quality of life.

Why is The City doing naturalization?

Naturalization will increase the diversity of landscapes within our parks and green spaces. This will help control weeds, pests, and diseases; and also create sustainable landscapes that help support plant, animal and insect life (biodiversity). Because Naturalized areas are well-suited to Calgary’s climate they will likely reduce long-term maintenance costs associated with fertilizing, applying pesticides and irrigating.

As outlined in Calgary’s 10-yearbiodiversity strategic plan, we aim to restore twenty per cent of Calgary’s open space by 2025. Naturalization is one of several tools we are using to achieve this target.

image of cinquefoil and blue flax
Shrubby cinquefoil and blue flax are native wildflowers being planted as part of the Naturalization initiative.

Naturalization sites

Work at each Naturalization site is a multi-year commitment; exact timelines will vary depending on site specific requirements. Each site undergoes a phased approach involving our Naturalizaton Guidelines. The guidelines include site analysis, initial discussions, concept planning, detailed planning, implementation, maintenance and monitoring. The implementation step is comprised of weed control to prepare the site for new plantings, planting of new vegetation, securing the site to encourage growth, and monitoring the new plants as they become established.

We ask for your patience and help with protecting these sensitive areas by respecting local area closures.

Review the Naturalization Summary handout for an overview of the initiative, as well as a step-by-step look at how you could work with The City to naturalize an open space in your community.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Naturalization FAQ

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​Before beginning the naturalization process, we consider a number of items:

  • Park usage in that area.
  • Potential impacts to park visitors.
  • The overall suitability of an area for non-traditional landscape techniques.
  • Ease of maintenance and crew safety.
  • The area’s potential to enhance wildlife habitat in support of biodiversity.
  • Site context (is the site near water, Natural Environment Parks, etc.).
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    ​Over the long-term, naturalized sites require less herbicide use as native plant species establish and make it difficult for invasive plant species (weeds) to spread.

    The City takes an integrated approach to weed management. Herbicides are used only when necessary. Weed control techniques performed at each naturalization site will vary depending on the type and amount of weeds present.

    The more weeds that can be controlled or eliminated before planting native species, the more successful naturalization will be. Controlling weeds before planting could take one growing season or more, depending on site conditions and types of weeds present.

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    ​Naturalized sites help provide habitat for wildlife. This may include wildlife such as insects, butterflies, small mammals including voles, rabbits and mice. The City is committed to maintaining appropriate buffers between naturalized areas and residential homes.

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    ​When choosing naturalization sites we consider park usage and potential impacts to park visitors, among other factors. Some naturalization sites will take mowed areas with little active use by citizens and turn them into areas that can be enjoyed through activities such as wildlife viewing, photography, nature appreciation and relaxation. Naturalized sites are sensitive to foot traffic in the early years while the vegetation establishes so please respect any area closures that may be in effect.

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    ​Naturalized areas help support biodiversity conservation by providing habitat for native plants and wildlife. These areas help to improve the health of our parks while reducing long-term maintenance costs and requirements (i.e., fertilizer, pesticides, mowing and irrigation) in the process. Naturalization is a tool for fostering natural weed, pest and disease resistance, allowing nature to be resilient when faced with extreme weather events or other disturbances.

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    ​There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available with The City of Calgary, including environmental stewardship opportunities.