Vancouver, Canada

Photo by Jack Tupper

Photo by Jack Tupper

Photo by Jack Tupper

Photo by Jack Tupper

Photo by Jack Tupper

Photo by Jack Tupper

Initiative: Transforming Mown Turf Lawns to Urban Pollinator Meadows

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City:Vancouver
Country:Canada
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Throughout 2020 and 2021, the City of Vancouver faced a diversity of social and environmental challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic brought budget and staffing shortages to municipal governments like the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. At the same time, our communities experienced a steady barrage of extreme heat events, droughts, fires, and floods partly as a result of our changing climate. But with every crisis comes an opportunity – in 2020, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation decided to make these lemons into lemonade by launching the pilot project “Low-intensity Turf Maintenance for Increased Financial and Ecological Resilience”, herein referred to more simply as “the meadows pilot” or “low-intensity turf maintenance”. As of November 2021, 6% of Park Board managed passive turf has been converted into resilient, biodiverse pollinator habitat.

It’s increasingly recognized that conventional, monoculture grass turf lawns are costly in many ways. They require considerable financial investment for the staff time, fuel and equipment needed to maintain them. They are also environmentally costly: the engines that power the required maintenance equipment produce considerable noise and greenhouse gas emissions, they often require fertilizer and herbicides to meet aesthetic expectations, and they guzzle our limited water supplies during the driest summer months.

By converting some traditionally managed turf lawns into meadows, we’ve successfully reduced our resource consumption, avoided the use of polluting chemicals, saved money, sequestered carbon, and created social and ecological value for Vancouver communities. Monitoring and evaluation data demonstrates that our pilot sites are now home to a diverse abundance of native bees, birds and beneficial insects. Meadows are also cooler and moisture environments that make the surrounding landscape more resilient to the effects of climate change. The meadows provide refuge for both people and wildlife during increasingly common summer heatwaves and provide new opportunities for residents to reap the health benefits of having good access to nature.

This innovative project was collaboratively designed by interdisciplinary staff and community partners. It has built the skills and knowledge of our team members, improved collaboration between professions, and built our city’s capacity for climate-smart and nature-based maintenance practices. Through the meadows pilot project, we’re showing how it is possible to use the power of plants to engender social, economic and environmental resilience in Vancouver.