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					Naturalization in Waterloo –
     A consolidation of existing
 policies, programs and procedures
Naturalization in Waterloo - a consolidation of existing policies, programs and procedures
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                                                          Table of Contents


Executive Summary ............................................................................................................ 2
Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 2
Naturalization ...................................................................................................................... 2
   What is naturalization? ................................................................................................... 2
   Environmental Benefits .................................................................................................. 2
   Social Benefits ................................................................................................................ 3
   Economic Benefits .......................................................................................................... 3
Naturalize Waterloo ............................................................................................................ 3
   Examples of Naturalization............................................................................................. 4
     Roxton Park ................................................................................................................ 4
     Silver Lake Rehabilitation .......................................................................................... 4
   Awards ............................................................................................................................ 5
   Expanding Naturalization in Waterloo ........................................................................... 5
     Naturalization in New Parks, Site Plans and Open Space Designs ............................ 6
     Naturalizing Waterloo in existing Park and Greenspaces........................................... 6
     Location/Priority Sites ................................................................................................ 6
     Plant species selection................................................................................................. 7
   Communication Strategy ................................................................................................ 7
   Future Management Strategies ....................................................................................... 7
Conclusion .......................................................................................................................... 7
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Executive Summary
This report is being brought forward for the purpose of establishing criteria for selecting naturalization
sites in our existing programming. This document defines and highlights the benefits of naturalization in
general and the extent to which Waterloo manages such lands. This report aims to consolidate the
myriad of documents and initiatives which have formed the foundation of how the City of Waterloo
currently manages its naturalized vegetation (Appendix A). Two impressive case examples – Silver
Lake and Roxton Park illustrate the transformative potential of naturalization. Expanding naturalization
into priority locations and gaining community support for such initiatives is the focus of future
management strategies. The City of Waterloo’s Strategic Plan sets out as a priority the protection of our
natural resources and the building of a more sustainable City. Expanding naturalization plays an
important role in reaching and maintaining these goals. This report was made available for public
comment from January 30 – February 20, 2008.

Introduction
In order to create a healthier, more sustainable community, the City of Waterloo takes the environment
into consideration in municipal operations and decision-making. This was first formalized in policy with
the Environment First Policy in 1991. By protecting existing environmental lands with vegetated buffers
and incorporating naturalization components into parkland through nurturing natural succession and the
planting of vegetation in strategic areas, landscapes can be restored and protected. Although some
perceive natural landscapes as a dramatic contrast to the traditional view of parkland, there are many
environmental, social and economic benefits of naturalization. Common myths and concerns can be
overcome through on-going public education, design considerations and by including these
components as standard municipal practices.


Naturalization
What is naturalization?
A “naturalized area” refers to land … [which] has been allowed to establish vegetation through a
combination of natural regeneration and deliberate plantings of vegetation to emulate a natural area
(based upon the definition for naturalization in the City of Waterloo, Lot Maintenance By-Law, 2003).

A simple comparison between traditional and naturalized landscapes is below.
Traditional                                 Naturalized
More formal                                 Less formal
Vegetation is precisely arranged for Plantings are more freely placed and other
aesthetic appeal                            vegetation allowed to regenerate
Require more maintenance                    Require less maintenance long term

There are multiple benefits to conserving, creating and restoring naturalized areas within our
communities as outlined below:

Environmental Benefits
Naturalized areas help foster healthy, diverse landscapes which:
 Moderate temperature - temperatures are modified as vegetation reduces wind velocities and
   creates shade, thereby reducing the “urban heat-island effect”
 Improve water quality – stormwater flows are managed by improving infiltration which reduces soil
   erosion
 Reduce pollution - fertilizer and pesticide use is eliminated or dramatically reduced
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   Protect- sensitive, passive areas from high activity areas, by creating a buffer
   Increases biodiversity- through encouraging the growth of trees, shrubs, vines, wildflowers,
    grasses, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, resident and migratory birds
   Create links- between greenspaces for the movement of animals, plants and people
   Provide- food for pollinators
   A means to greening our City by:
           o Conserving existing natural spaces
           o Restoring ecological systems
           o Managing Stormwater

Social Benefits
 Provide a nature retreat in an urban setting
 Provide nature-based recreational opportunities such as hiking
 Provide an opportunity for volunteerism such as planting events (Partners in Parks Program)
 Increase urban forest cover
 Provide regionally specific parklands

Economic Benefits
 Reduce hazards such as slope instability, soil erosion and flooding
 Lower operational costs (as formal open spaces are more costly and time consuming to maintain
   especially on steep embankments)

Naturalize Waterloo
The City of Waterloo manages over 812 hectares of public parkland, which consist of both active and
passive parklands. Active parkland such as sports fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, park entrances
and city facility grounds require a high level of maintenance to accommodate high volumes of park
users. Passive parkland includes environmental reserves, links and corridors, such as environmentally
sensitive areas, environmental special policy areas, meadows, woodlands, wetlands, stormwater
management ponds, hedgerows and creek buffers. Naturalized areas represent approximately 221
hectares (27%) of City owned parklands.

The manner in which the City of Waterloo manages vegetation has evolved over a rich history marked
by an emphasis of nurturing nature. There are several policies, programs and procedures that have
been approved over the years by Council and thereby implemented by staff and the community. These
can be found in Appendix A.

The goal of this report is to highlight in one document all the policies, programs and procedures that
specify how the City of Waterloo does business with regards to naturalized vegetation. It is a response
to a lack of such consolidation and a need for such clarity. These documents can be referenced by
staff and residents alike particularly when the City’s approach to naturalization is challenged. These
documents provide clear descriptions of how the City operates with regards to vegetation management
particularly its more naturalistic landscaping.       Waterloo has many successful examples of
naturalization. Naturalization efforts are evident throughout the entire City of Waterloo. Two rather
stunning examples of the transformative potential of naturalization are illustrated below.
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Examples of Naturalization
Roxton Park
By the late 1980’s, Roxton Park housed very little diversity. Farming and land development left an
important waterway degraded and a threat to the downstream system. In the early 1990’s efforts
towards naturalization began. Within four years, the corridor was already re-established with
indigenous vegetation selected to stabilize the banks, cleanse the water and bring back the natural bird,
fish and small mammal life that once lived there. The partnership between the City of Waterloo and
community volunteers is an obvious success as illustrated below.




Before…                                              After…


Silver Lake Rehabilitation
In 1993, a Laurel Creek Watershed Study identified the existing environmental conditions of Silver
Lake, located within the heart of Waterloo Park, as one of the more significant watershed issues
requiring attention. A Class Environmental Assessment Study was conducted to address these
concerns and with extensive public consultation, a seven year plan to rehabilitate Silver Lake was
endorsed by City Council in 1995. The Recommended Plan addressed key features such as dredging
and cleaning up the lake, creating a wetland, rehabilitating mudflats, and the naturalization of Laurel
Creek, to name a few.

Partnership between the City of Waterloo and community volunteers over the years has resulted in
another successful example of naturalization in Waterloo.
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Before... Silver Lake - North shoreline         After… Silver Lake - North shoreline




Before... Silver Lake – South shoreline         After… Silver Lake – South shoreline

Awards
A significant catalyst for naturalization throughout the City was the receipt of the Greens Street Canada
Grant in 1995. $90, 000 was received to direct towards naturalizing City parks. Naturalization initiatives
at the City have in part also been recognized through several awards including:
 1999 Communities In Bloom Urban Forestry Award
 2002 Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) award for the Environmental
    Strategic Plan
 2003 TV Ontario - Greenest Cities Award
 2003 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) Forest Stewardship Recognition Program for
    Wildlife Habitat
 2006 International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Annual Sustainability Award

Expanding Naturalization in Waterloo
With the goal of protecting our natural resources, the City of Waterloo, Environment and Parks
Services, continues to expand naturalization into public areas (on both existing and newly developing
lands) where possible. Staff identify areas on public land where cessation of mowing could decrease
maintenance costs and encourage wildlife habitat and corridor connections Development Services also
reviews and approves new subdivision development plans to ensure elements of naturalization are
incorporated into the design where appropriate.
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Naturalization in New Parks, Site Plans and Open Space Designs
Within new park development, naturalized areas are specified through a process outlined in the City of
Waterloo’s Landscape Design Process and Requirements Manual – New Subdivision Development
(2003). Preliminary discussions between Development Services and the Developer’s Consultants,
initiates the development of a landscape design concept. This concept is circulated to City staff
including Development Services, and Environment and Parks Services, for review and feedback.
During this time, staff provide comment to avoid long-term maintenance difficulties. Each concept must
satisfy the requirements set out in the manual. According to the Subdivision Agreement, parkland
development will be completed within one year of registration of that phase of the subdivision. The
Contractor is then required to undertake the maintenance of the area for two years prior to the City
assuming responsibility for the area.

Naturalizing Waterloo in existing Parks and Greenspaces
Expanding naturalization into priority areas is accomplished by the efforts of both staff in Environment
and Parks Services and community volunteer partnerships. When creating a naturalized area in
existing parkland three main factors are considered:
 Location/Priority Sites
 Plant Species
 Communication Strategy

Location/Priority Sites
Priority sites that are ideal for naturalization include but are not limited to:
 steep slopes along roadsides and within parkland areas
 areas that are difficult to maintain due to obstacles such as trees/shrubs or permanent structures
 areas having limited access, including swales and tight spaces
 low-lying areas with poor drainage
 natural features requiring protection, such as adjacent to woodland edges, creeks, stormwater
    management ponds, and wetlands
 passive areas of parkland where natural landscaping helps to diversify passive recreation
    opportunities
 areas where a living fence will help provide privacy for trail/park users and residents
 areas where vegetation will help provide a windbreak or reduce noise pollution for adjoining
    properties
 unnecessarily mown areas
 cul-de-sacs
 right of way boulevards
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Plant species selection
Incorporating native species is a key priority in plant species selection. When selecting native plant
material for naturalization, the primary resources used include:
 List of Preferred Species for Street Trees (Urban Forest Policy, 1998)
 Region of Waterloo Significant Species List: Native Vascular Plants (1999)
 City of Waterloo Stormwater Management Guidelines (1996)

Communication Strategy
The City of Waterloo continues to naturalize strategic areas within existing neighbourhood parks based
on the aforementioned criteria. Informing adjacent residents is a priority. This process involves the
distribution of project information to residents within a reasonable distance of the project site through:
a) letter
b) an open house / information session providing for public comments
c) preparing and sending a project report to Council for approval for controversial or high impact
projects,
d) temporary and permanent signage to convey planned works or existing conditions

Future Management Strategies
As part of an overall environmental management plan, staff will inventory existing naturalized locations,
identify appropriate future sites and develop a priority site planting list by which naturalization will be
expanded in Waterloo. It is anticipated that many of the highest priority areas will include road right-of-
ways, as well as directly support the rehabilitation of creek systems.

City greenspaces are the playgrounds and neighbour of the residents of Waterloo. Communicating
about what exists and what is yet to come to local greenspaces is beneficial. Naturalization is often
misunderstood when knowledge is limited. Creating a culture which accepts diversity makes
naturalization more readily possible. In light of this, staff recommend the following be undertaken:
 Designing and implementing a community-based social marketing program targeting greenspace
    neighbours throughout the City, with initial emphasis on newly developed areas. Activities may
    include the following:
            o Incorporating environmental public education programs such as neighbourhood events,
               community plantings, workshops, interpretive hikes or one-on-one communication.
            o Connecting with the community through the use of Neighbourhood Association
               newsletters or websites with pertinent information about their neighbouring greenspaces
            o Creating an informational pamphlet on naturalization to supplement the brochures on
               woodlands, riparian areas and stormwater
            o Increasing an emphasis on signage in naturalized areas

Incorporating these future management strategies support staff initiatives towards greater
environmental excellence.

Conclusion
The benefits of naturalization are well-established. Promoting naturalization within the City of Waterloo
contributes to the ecological, social, and economic well-being of the City. Maintaining existing
naturalized areas and employing a combination of natural succession and deliberate native species
plantings to rehabilitate an area can improve the ecological integrity of public greenspaces. By
expanding the presence and benefits of naturalization, the City of Waterloo will continue to lead the
growing ranks of municipalities dedicated to safeguarding the environmental features of their City.
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                                APPENDIX
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Appendix A: Documenting Naturalization in Waterloo
This report aims to consolidate the myriad of documents and initiatives which have formed the
foundation of how the City of Waterloo currently manages its vegetation. The significance of each is
noted and briefly described. It is recommended that the original documents be further explored for
greater description and clarity.

Mowing of Parkland and City Open Spaces adjacent to Watercourses Policy (1990)
The policy goal is to “to promote and restore the full naturalization of plant life along
watercourses in parks and other city-owned spaces and to reduce erosion of creek
banks, and the washing of silt and other sediments into watercourses”. For the first time
no mowing areas are identified. Creek edges are not to be mowed for a minimum of 2
metres.
Environment First Policy (1991)
Gives staff the impetus to consider the environment at all levels of decision making.
The Plant Health Care Program early 1990’s
Combines all turf care techniques into an enhanced cultural program as an alternative to
pesticide spraying, thereby minimizing the risk of pesticides. By effectively applying
cultural practices (such as aerating, top dressing and over-seeding) at the appropriate
times, turf can be created that is its own best defense against weeds, insects, disease
and other turf stresses. All parks in Waterloo are pesticide free with the exception of the
control of Poison Ivy along the edges of public trails and walkways.
The Weed Control Act R.S.O 1990 Chapter W.5
The main purpose of The Weed Control Act R.S.O 1990 Chapter W.5 is to reduce the
impact of noxious weeds on the industries of agriculture and horticulture. Primarily this
Act applies to agricultural and horticultural lands that generate income or other benefits to
agriculture, which excludes lawns, gardens and private areas used for personal
enjoyment and leisure. Sections 3, 13, 16, 18 and 23 do not apply to noxious weeds or
weed seeds that are far enough away from any land used for agricultural or horticultural
purposes, as they do not interfere with that use. This is primarily the case for the City of
Waterloo. Plants that have an affect on human health, specifically Ragweed and Poison
Ivy are controlled under City of Waterloo Lot Maintenance By-Law.
Laurel Creek Watershed Study (LCWS) (1993)
Study’s goals were to protect, manage and enhance natural resources, including land,
surface water and groundwater quantity and quality as well as forests and wildlife. Buffer
requirements are outlined. Buffers are to consist of a 15 metre setback on each side of
an intermittent stream and a 30 metre setback on each side of a perennial stream. This
measurement is taken from the top of each bank. Rehabilitation and naturalization efforts
are encouraged within stream corridor buffer areas. Constraint Areas are defined.
There are three constraint levels identified in the LCWS:
     Environmental Constraint Areas Level 1 are the most sensitive lands on which the
        study recommends no development occurs. Such areas include high quality
        ecological systems such as wetlands, woodlands, naturalized vegetation buffer
        areas, and perennial watercourse reaches.
     Environmental Constraint Areas Level 2 consists of medium quality lands which
        have experienced some human intrusion. The lands still play a supporting role in
        ecological systems through the protection and ongoing management of ecological
        functions such as groundwater recharge. The study recommends those lands
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          may support some land use change; however the existing (pre-development)
          functions of the area must be maintained both during and following construction.
       Areas which contain low quality lands which have already experienced significant
          human intrusion are classed as Environmental Constraint Level 3. These areas
          may support change to an urban land use, however natural hydrologic conditions
          should be maintained and both terrestrial and water quality protected where
          feasible.
Woodlots were identified as Constraint Level 1 and 2 areas and will be subject to the
Constraint Area policies. In general, a minimum buffer area will extend 1.5 times the
dripline or 7 metres beyond the edge of the treed canopy whichever is greater.
Top Soil, Erosion Protection and Site Rehabilitation By-Law #93-39 (1993)
Prohibits man-made change of the land surface including vegetative cover, excavating,
filling, grading and removal of topsoil and other related matters.
Official Plan – Parks and Open Space Policies (1994)
Outlines the permissible type of uses on such designated lands. Contains policies
speaking to environmental rehabilitation and naturalization.
Official Plan Amendment #16 (1994)
Buffer requirements along watercourses and woodland edges in all new subdivisions are
set according to the recommendations outlined in the LCWS. Intermittent streams are to
have a15 metre minimum and perennial streams a 30 metre minimum naturalized
buffers.
Constraint Areas identified in the Laurel Creek Watershed Study (1993) were adopted
which protects sensitive areas of the watershed in order to maintain and enhance
important ecological processes and watershed characteristics.
Partners in Parks (1996)
             The program provides an opportunity for community partnerships involving
             Waterloo’s greenspaces. Through environmental events (i.e. Earth Day
             celebrations) and improvement projects (i.e. planting events) an avenue for
             creating environmental awareness, respect, stewardship, and pride within our
             community is provided. Since 1996, hundreds of volunteers have carried out
             various improvement projects within Waterloo’s parks, trails, creeks,
stormwater management ponds and natural areas.
Aesthetic Design Guidelines for Stormwater Management Ponds (1996)
Outlines the principles to achieve the highest level of utilization, aesthetics,
environmental benefits and ease of maintenance for these facilities
Urban Forest Policy (1998)
This policy specifies the planting specifications for trees on city streets, right of way and
public lands in the City of Waterloo.
Environmental Lands Acquisition and Maintenance Policy (1999)
A policy to acquire, manage, monitor and maintain environmental lands. Places priority
on purchasing environmental lands where possible and developing subsequent
management plans and community education programming
Spruce up your City Program (1999)
A program required by the City of Waterloo, as a requirement for new subdivisions. New
homeowners receive a $250 gift certificate from the Builders for the purchase of native
trees and shrubs at selected nurseries. A brochure is given to homeowners explaining
the details.
Environmental Strategic Plan (2002)
The Mayor’s Environmental Task Force set out strategic actions, direction and
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recommendations for environmental management. Strategic actions that focus on
“greening the city” include:
 Water Resources – Watershed stewardship and community involvement
    improvement projects
 Air Quality – initiatives to reduce the urban heat island effect by planting vegetation
 Environmental Awareness –environmental education and experiences as well as
    technical assistance to citizens that would like to undertake actions that benefit the
    environment
 Greenspace – increasing community partnerships within our greenspaces through
    programs such as Partners in Parks
Development Manual (2003)
This document sets out engineering standards and policies for development in the City of
Waterloo. It outlines policies, processes and standards for the entire process of
development including but in no way limited to stormwater management pond design
guidelines, protective measures for environmental features and maintenance periods.
Landscape Design Process and Requirements Manual (2003)
The Landscape Design Process and Requirements Manual (for New Subdivision
Development), outlines the procedures and requirements for park/open space
development within subdivision developments in the City of Waterloo done by
Consultants/Developers. This Manual is to be used in conjunction with the City of
Waterloo Development Manual.
Parks By-law #03-059 (2003)
This By-Law provides protection to City parkland including greenspaces, trails, water
features, riparian buffers, wooded areas, and water features; by limiting human activities
within these areas (i.e. residents may not remove parkland vegetation except for mowing
a one metre buffer).
Lot Maintenance By-Law #03-73 (2003)
Maintains private land in a clean and clear condition with an option for naturalistic
landscaping by permitting the planting of a wildflower meadow or naturalized area. A set-
back of one metre from the perimeter of the naturalized area is required to keep the
plants from encroaching upon the sidewalks, streets and neighbouring properties.
Prohibits ragweed and poison ivy from private property.
Boulevard By-Law #04-094 (2004)
Provides guidelines and restrictions for owners on the maintenance and activities that
may occur on the boulevard. Residents may plant herbaceous (non-woody) plants on a
boulevard so long as the plants do not exceed a 45 cm/ 18 inches in height, they do not
impair drainage, are not invasive (such as goutweed, lily of the valley and periwinkle) and
a border or buffer strip (if the vegetation is not sod) surrounding the vegetation is
provided.
Encroachment Policy - on City owned Parks, Open Space, Trails and
Environmental Lands (2006)
The primary policy intention is to ensure that encroachments onto City-owned lands are
removed and that such lands be restored to the satisfaction of the City at the expense of
the encroaching party (contractor, tenant and/or owner of land). Policy discusses a one
metre mowed buffer strip that residents may mow immediately adjacent to their property
onto naturalized public lands.
Plan it! Waterloo (2007) Final objectives for the section on City Form: Open Space,
Parks speaks to the objectives (related to naturalization) for the new City Official Plan
which will guide the development of an updated Official Plan and land use designations.
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