The City of Chestermere, Alberta, is buzzing with excitement after becoming Western Canada’s first Bee City and the second in Canada. The city is taking action to fight against declines in pollinator populations and hopes to inspire other communities to join them in becoming Bee Cities!
Learn more about what the city is doing to protect pollinators by visiting Chestermere’s Bee City web page.
The Parks Department follows Integrated Pest Management practices, to ensure that whenever possible, other cultural practices are followed before applying pesticides for weed control. Our seasonal turf maintenance program includes aerating, top-dressing and fertilization to improve turf health and reduce weed infestations.
The Rotary Club approached the City in 2019 with a plan to improve food security to residents through a Community Abundance project. Their first initiative is the “Rotary Edible Garden Walk”. This consists of
an extensive planting of fruit trees and shrubs as well as many perennial plants with an accessible walking path, benches and signage to guide visitors through the garden. With some help from the Parks Department, construction began in the spring of 2021. The walking path and plant material was installed by many enthusiastic volunteers.
The Naturalization Area Rehabilitation program is a multi-year plan to improve our storm water retention ponds and canals by planting native plant material and displacing noxious weed populations.
In 2019 our main focus was to build our volunteer base and shift from a City organized function to a community based program. In the first quarter of 2019 we began advertising for new committee members and at our first meeting in April we had 10-15 new volunteers join us. We elected an executive and set up various sub-committees. We drew up a “Terms of Reference”, “Volunteer Code of Conduct Policy” and an “Overview of Robert’s Rules of Order”
The city owns a small greenhouse to grow annuals for our seasonal floral displays. In 2019 we also grew Liatris bulbs, a hardy perennial that attracts pollinators. The committee planted these during National Pollinator Week into beds that we created in 2017 and that were specifically planted with pollinator-friendly plant material. Not only did the bees enjoy the Liatris, we also attracted a large number of Painted lady butterflies to the site.
We set up information booths at our Canada Day and Chestermere Fall Fair to talk to residents about the importance of pollinators and handed out “Buzzing Gardens” native perennial seed packets that were given to us
by “Bees Matter”. Bees Matter is a partnership of agricultural organizations with a vested interest in pollinator health. We were introduced to this group through our involvement with the “Communities in Bloom” program.
In 2018 the City’s Parks Department continued its reduction of pesticide use that was formally introduced to the parks maintenance program in 2017. This included an update to the “Parks and Recreation Open Spaces Maintenance Standards”. Specifically, the threshold values for treatment of broadleaf weeds were doubled for Class 1 parks. Also the practice of spraying as a method of weed control on medians and boulevards was eliminated. Whenever possible, other non-chemical methods of weed control are favored such as mowing and hand-pulling. The focus has shifted to improving turf health through
proactive maintenance practices such as aeration, top dressing and over seeding.
This year, the Mayor of Chestermere, Marshall Chalmers, made a formal proclamation recognizing national pollinator week at a Council Meeting. We also held a planting event with community volunteers at the Centre for Community Leadership in Cornerstone Community Park.
This past year we continued planting flowering trees, shrubs and perennials in several areas around the City including Cornerstone Community Park where we held a volunteer planting event during National Pollinator Week. We helped to educate people about the importance of our pollinators by visiting local schools and helped the Calgary Zoo spread the word by volunteering at their Bee City information booth during their Easter Eggstravaganza weekend. Moving forward it will be essential to find community partnerships and more volunteers who can bring new ideas and continued enthusiasm in maintaining and creating habitats and providing educational opportunities for all ages. Media responses have been positive.
This year we held a planting event with volunteers from Lake Ridge Community Church and Synergy at Cornerstone Community Park. This is home to the city’s new Centre for Community Leadership and the Chestermere skate park. Various flowering shrubs and perennials were planted that attract pollinators over the entire growing season such as Lilac, Potentilla, Spirea and Monarda.
Our Bee City experience has been fantastic, Chestermere has a remarkable story. We went from being bee adverse to pro bee in a few years and Bee City Canada helped us on that journey. Chestermere became a Bee City on July 18th, 2016 after Dr. Preston Pouteaux, a local beekeeper and advocate approached the City of Chestermere about becoming a Bee City. Chestermere was featured on CBC radio, The Calgary Herald and other local papers after being officially announced as Western Canada’s First Bee City. We have not run into any obstacles thus far and the community’s response has been very positive.
A Bee City Committee was formed immediately following our designation and we began working together to determine what initiatives we would focus on for our first year.
Our Integrated Pest Management Technician updated our worksite practices to reflect a significant decrease in herbicide use. This included a discontinuation of spraying in or around parks that have playground equipment. We doubled the allowable threshold values for our Class 1 parks before spraying is required. We no longer spray medians and boulevards and we are also no longer spraying dandelions. Instead we are taking a more proactive approach that focuses on improving turf health through better maintenance practices.
A number of new projects have been identified for increasing pollinator habitat over the course of the 2017 growing season. This includes 6 new tree/shrub beds with plants that flower over the full growing season. A plant list of pollinator friendly plants was created and added to the City’s website.
The City of Chestermere is endeavoring to create a unique community that is known as one of the finest places to live and work and Chestermere becoming a Bee City aligns with this Strategic Initiative. As a Bee City, Chestermere can highlight initiatives already in place and further engage local communities. Chestermere can also establish additional pollinator friendly habitats across the City and provide educational opportunities through interpretive signage, additional community planting events, and tours. Pollinator friendly habitats that include the planting of native flowers and potentially installing bee hives will ultimately result in a sustainable ecosystem within the City. We believe that this initiative will create an environment in Chestermere that promotes creativity and innovation which will lead to the creation of a better tomorrow for our community. As the first Bee City in Alberta (and Western Canada), Chestermere will be regarded as an innovative community that recognizes the value in cultivating a sustainable ecosystem within the City.
This initiative falls under at least four of our six Strategic Principles in our 2015-2018 Strategic Plan, being: