The Aspen Ridge Greenway is a naturalized multipurpose corridor that balances human use with nature. It is located along the south perimeter of the Northeast Swale.
The purpose of the Greenway is to protect the Northeast Swale and manage residential stormwater while supporting active lifestyles with a multi-modal asphalt pathway system. At approximately 1.3km’s in length, the Greenway will be one of Saskatoon’s larger naturally restored landscapes.
The naturalized planting scheme within the Greenway is intended to harmonize with the native prairie of the Northeast Swale to help protect the Northeast Swale from the pressures of urban development. The Northeast Swale Resource Management Plan, 2013 highlights examples of these pressures. And while there is potential for these negative stresses, there is also a great opportunity for environmental stewardship. As the Northeast Swale Resource Management Plan, 2013 states:
" …one of the biggest assets of the Northeast swale is the presence of these features in a location that is readily available to the public, providing opportunities to learn about them, and in doing so instill within the public a desire to be stewards of the Northeast swale."
The Greenway is a critical piece to the Northeast Swale and the overland drainage of Aspen Ridge. It will feature similar environmental characteristics of the Northeast Swale and it will enable its environmental stewardship through a naturalized landscape development.
naturalized Landscape planting design
What is a naturalized planting scheme?
A naturalized planting scheme uses local plants to mimic a native prairie landscape while creating a species-rich and diverse ecosystem.
How is a naturalized landscape established?
The process differs from a typical Park development that is highly manicured. Establishing a naturalized landscape can take up to 5 years and requires various strategies to help control and aim to eliminate weeds while promoting a healthy bio-diverse site.
The implementation of the Greenway is based on industry best management practices and will be a 3-year process that started in the spring of 2021. A landscape contractor has been retained and work is underway at the Greenway.
The process to undertake this work will be based on the following:
- In year one a cover crop will be planted. The use of a cover crop, in the beginning, helps control annual and perennial weeds. The intention is to encourage weed growth. This process helps reduce the dormant seed found in the soil. Encouraging these seeds to germinate curtails and controls the weed population on the site. Various methods of weed control (herbicide use, mowing and cover crops) are used during this step. This process is weather-dependent and impacted by both drought or increased rainfall. The more years a cover crop is used typically increases the success of a naturalized planting design.
- During this stage, the site can look messy and unkempt due to weed growth yet this is a necessary step in the process to help control unwanted plant material (noxious and nuisance weeds).
- At the end of the growing season, in year one, the cover crop and any remaining weeds will be removed prior to the first snowfall.
- In year two, the site will be seeded with native grass early in the growing season after the first flush of weeds. Watering, mowing, and herbicide will be used to control any unwanted plant material and encourage the growth of the desired plants.
- In the final years, the site will be overseeded with native grass and wildflowers. Watering, mowing, and herbicide will be used to control any unwanted plant material and encourage the growth of the desired plants.
Over the next three years, the naturalized establishment of the Greenway will consist of grading, seeding, watering, weed control, and mowing.
The Greenway design adheres to the NE Swale Development Guidelines which detail the following key objectives for the Greenway (section 3.4 The Greenway):
- To provide a zone between the Swale boundary and adjacent land uses (residential, commercial, institutional, roads, etc.) that acts as a buffer protecting the landscape within the Swale.
- To provide a zone where trails (pedestrian and bicycling) can be developed for recreation and commuting and which does not adversely affect the Swale.
- To provide a naturalized transition zone that restricts the encroachment of exotic plant species from residential areas into the Swale.
The Greenway design features three zones:
Ecological Buffer: All vegetation in this area will be species found in the Swale.
- Trail Zone: 3m wide trail that meanders through the site.
- Transition Zone: This zone will be seeded to native species acting as the outer edge to control water and plant encroachment from neighbouring properties.
Timeline (subject to change)
- Spring 2021: Final grading was completed, a cover crop of oat grass was planted.
- Summer 2021: Oat grass establishment period, regular maintenance including weed control. Please note: the site will appear weedy and messy. This is expected and is part of the process.
- Fall 2021: The entire site will be sprayed and mowed to eliminate any plant material on site.
- Weed growth will be encouraged. These weeds will be treated to eliminate another round of seeds. The site will be seeded to a native grass mix no earlier than May long weekend. This work is weather dependent and the ground needs to be +5 and ideally precipitation in the forecast.
- Some shrub planting will occur late in the season.
- The landscape contractor will continue to establish the native grass mix through mowing and herbicide use.
Controlling weeds helps ensure a successful native establishment of grass and wildflowers. Weed control is implemented through mowing and herbicide use. The oat grass cover crop is intended to out-compete weeds and slow/prevent their proliferation. However, it is inevitable that some weeds will still be found within the Greenway.
Mowing alone will not eradicate these weeds. Many of these weeds are perennial rhizomatous weeds found on the noxious/nuisance weed list. Therefore, herbicide use may be required. The landscape contractor establishing the Greenway is fully licensed for herbicide application and will post signs when spraying herbicide. The restriction levels are minimal. Once the herbicide dries on the plants the pathway will be open to the public.
For more information please see the following resources:
- The City’s Bylaw No. 8175, The Property Maintenance and Nuisance Abatement Bylaw, 2003, dictates that land is not to be overgrown with grass and weeds in excess of 20 centimeters.
- The Weed Control Act, 2010 is provincial legislation that empowers municipalities to enforce the eradication, containment or control of prohibited, noxious and nuisance weeds by landowners within the boundaries of the municipality.
- The Urban Guide To Weed Control can be found on the Province of Saskatchewan website and contains information on weed species and guidelines for weed control measures.
CROSSING THE GREENWAY
During the naturalized landscape establishment, landscaping materials and related equipment access to backyards is prohibited via the Greenway pathway and through the drainage swale. All backyard landscaping must be completed via private property and not accessed from the Greenway. Any damages to the Greenway by builders/homeowners and their contractors will be charged in full to the offending builder/homeowner. Once the establishment of the Greenway is completed, residents may apply for backyard access through the City of Saskatoon Parks Department - Park Access Permits.
Land Bridge (culvert) SURFACE completion
The landscape contractor will be completing drainage surface work under the land bridges (culverts) over the drainage swale to the Greenway pathways. The work will include removing soil and placement of riprap (large rock used to protect against erosion) through the culvert including both openings.