Nova Scotia

Halifax council to discuss guidelines for boulevard gardens

Coun. Sam Austin says boulevard gardens have ecological, community and social benefits.

Coun. Sam Austin says boulevard gardens have ecological, community and social benefits

HRM plans to discuss regulations for boulevard gardens. (Frances Willick/CBC)

A Dartmouth, N.S., councillor wants the municipality to establish guidelines for boulevard gardens.

Boulevards are the narrow strips of green space between the sidewalk and the curb, and are usually just home to grass.

But Coun. Sam Austin wants to encourage alternate uses of the space, including other plants and flowers.

"It's not just a spot that you toss the garbage on," he said. "It could be much more."

Austin said there are ecological and social benefits to the tiny gardens.

"Grass is almost from an ecological point of view, it's basically a desert, right? It's a monoculture. If you're doing gardening out there, particularly if you might be using native species, you're creating habitat for pollinators and other life," he said.

"And there's a community pride piece — you go down the street and it looks like it's lovely and well cared for, right? ... And when people are out there in that common space gardening, well, you tend to end up getting to know your neighbours."

'No man's land'

Some residents have already taken the matter into their own hands, planting hostas, flowers or even fruit and vegetables.

"Right now it's happening, but it's happening in a bit of a no man's land, right? The city has not said yes you can, so there's a lot of people who believe that you're not allowed to do that."

There's no bylaw preventing people from gardening in the space. (Frances Willick/CBC)

There's no bylaw preventing people from gardening in the space. The only bylaw governing the space is that any grass must be cut to a height of no more than about 15 centimetres.

Austin said he would like to use some of his community grant funds to develop an incentive program for residents to branch out from traditional lawn in the space. But in order to do that, clear guidelines must be established.

Austin said other cities such as Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Kitchener, Ont., have formal policies on the issue, laying out rules about obstructing municipal services, how deeply residents can dig and how tall plants are permitted to grow.

Council is scheduled to discuss requesting a staff report on boulevard gardens at Tuesday's meeting.

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