Red Deer creates pollinator parks to attract bees, reduce cosmetic pesticides

The City of Red Deer has designated four pollinator parks to attract a range of pollinators — including bees, bats, birds and beetles — and is encouraging residents to create a similar oasis in their own yards.

4 parks chosen to promote pollination, ecological education

City Hall Park in Red Deer is the site of one of four new pollinator parks in the city. (Joe Pelz/City of Red Deer)

As cities and town throughout Alberta look to reduce cosmetic pesticides and invite more pollinators in, the City of Red Deer has gone one step further by creating four pollinator parks. 

"These small steps act as a catalyst for improving our community as a whole and spurring on some similar changes and adaptations across the province and potentially across the nation," said Red Deer parks superintendent Trevor Poth.

City Hall Park, Snell Gardens, Bower Ponds and Maskepetoon Park are the locations designated by council.

Each site will provide habitat that is rich in pollen sources, along with interpretive access for the public. There will also be signs to describe the park features and extra care will be taken to protect and promote the pollinators at each location.

The city says it's all about encouraging and protecting the well-known pollinators like bats, birds and bees.

Using the parks as demonstration areas helps people understand the plight of pollinators and shows residents how they can turn their own yards into an oasis for essential players in the ecosystem, Poth says. 

"When you look at your flower garden out in your backyard you tend to see a lot of things crawling around in there and, whether it's spiders or beetles or bugs, they're all spreading pollen around in your garden."

Insect baths

Poth says pollinators need access to water and shade, as well as sandy porous soils to create great habitats.

Trevor Poth is the City of Red Deer's parks superintendent. He hopes the city can share what it learns about pollinators with residents. (Joe Pelz/City of Red Deer)

He says simple things like putting out a bowl of water, or a shallow bird bath with stones in it, can go a long way. 

"The most important thing is making sure you've got little rocks and stones for the pollinators to actually stand on to have a drink," he said.

"The last thing we need is a whole bunch of beetles drowning in your backyard, in your bird bath, when they're just trying to get a little sip of water." 

He also encourages residents to ensure there's a wide variety of flowering material to produce pollen and nectar, which are essential for pollinators.

There's a great deal of native material available that people can plant and that will flower throughout the year, Poth says. 

"It makes such a difference in times of drought and in times when we're not getting an awful lot of rain."  

Global impact

The benefits of pollinator-friendly parks and yards go far beyond Red Deer, says Poth who points to significant decreases in populations and important plants.

They also become vehicles to look at pesticide programs to decide where chemicals may be needed and where they should be cut back, he says.

​It turned out Red Deer was not using neonicotinoids — an ingredient linked to decreased pollinator populations — in the designated areas, but the city used the experience as an educational opportunity to talk to residents and adjacent agricultural businesses "about certain pesticides they want to avoid and good pesticide practices."

"Seventy to 80 per cent of our food sources rely on pollinators for protection, so by us doing these little things, increasing our habitat, offering pollen sources and then decreasing our pesticide use, we're certainly able to contribute greatly to increasing these species and also offering some sustainability for us as a society, because we're awfully dependent on that 80 per cent of food."

Since the majority of land within municipalities is owned by private businesses and private residences, Poth hopes to transfer the city's experience and the lessons learned to really make a difference.

"By having increased production from an urban level, we're able to help our rural neighbours out a little bit by having good pollinator habitat here, and then the pollinators will of course move on out into some of those native areas," he said.

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