Little Albro Yellow Floating Heart Pilot
HRM’s pilot project to control Yellow Floating Heart in Little Albro Lake is in the water! This is something I have been working on for the last several years, but it’s not a new problem.
Yellow Floating Heart is an invasive species that is, unfortunately, sold as a garden ornamental, creating opportunities for it to escape into the wild. It first showed up in Little Albro Lake in 2007 and since then it has grown to almost completely cover the lake. The plant chokes out oxygen, creates habitat for mosquitos, and basically obliterates the natural environment. There is virtually nothing growing in Little Albro now that isn’t Yellow Floating Heart. It has been a nightmare for residents too as it makes recreational use of the lake next to impossible. You can’t swim or boat through swaths of thickly growing Yellow Floating Heart!
The saving grace at Little Albro has been that the Lake drains directly to the harbour, meaning the plant hasn’t been able to spread beyond Little Albro, at least not yet. Yellow Floating Heart seeds come equipped with little burrs which are designed to allow the seeds to attach to wildlife and hitch a ride to other lakes. Fragments of the plant can also sprout new roots, allowing it to be accidentally spread by boats. While it hasn’t happened yet, there is no guarantee that Yellow Floating Heart will stay in Little Albro forever. If it spreads to the wider lake system, the consequences would be major and our chance to actually control or even eliminate it will disappear.
So what can we do about Yellow Floating Heart? Unfortunately there aren’t good control methods available. There aren’t clearly identified herbicides, mechanical control can be somewhat effective, but it’s extremely labour intensive, and there are no ready biological controls available (grass carp won’t eat it). The one option that has some promise of success is smothering the plant with benthic mats. The idea is to layer benthic mats on the bottom of Little Albro to see if they’re successful in cutting the plant off from sunlight. It’s kind of the lake equivalent of landscape fabric. Two types of mats have been deployed in Little Albro in this pilot.
To gauge the effectiveness of the mat pilot, HRM has partnered with Dalhousie University. Dal will study not only the effectiveness of the mats, but also the environmental impact of covering the lake bottom. If the pilot is a success, knowing what the environmental tradeoffs are of potentially blanketing the lake will be important. So if you live on Little Albro Lake, please stay clear of the equipment that’s in the water. Messing with the gear could invalidate the pilot project’s results.
I’m very pleased to see this pilot project underway to test if there is a viable solution to Little Albro’s Yellow Floating Heart problem. This is about more than cleaning up Little Albro Lake, it’s also about eliminating a threat to Dartmouth’s other lakes! Hopefully the mats will be a success and we can move onto trying to figure out with the Province (invasive species are more their jurisdiction than HRMs!) what a larger project might look like.
Sullivan’s Pond Concerts
It has been a longtime since there was music at the Sullivan’s Pond bandstand. Assuming our health situation improves and COVID restrictions ease over the coming weeks and months, that could soon change. Two local musicians have launched a plan to fill Sullivan’s Pond with music on Saturday afternoons (July 3, August 14, September 11, and October 2). Musicians that will play at the Pond include George Woodhouse and the Public Service, Noel Morgan Band, Tall Poppy and more.
The concerts are being put on as a 100% volunteer driven project to bring some life back to the Pond and provide support for local musicians who have been hard hit by COVID closures. The organizers are fundraising to make sure that the artists are paid. I have committed a portion of District 5’s advertising and promotion budget to sponsor the event. Anything that folks can spare will go a long way and is appreciated. Check out the project page for more info here
Green Bin/Recycling Changes
As part of our recent budget deliberations, Council approved changes to the waste collection system. Weekly green cart collection is returning for July, August, and September, but blue bag collection is moving to once every two weeks. Both changes will come into effect on July 2, 2021.
I wrote about the change as part of my Council update on budget deliberations. In a nutshell, HRM was looking at the green bin and blue bag changes to save money. Feedback from the public was against making the biweekly summer green bin service permanent, but folks were generally supportive of scaling back blue bag pick up. You can read my take on this and Council’s other budget deliberations in my Council blog here.
To better manage waste pick up, consider signing up for weekly collection reminders, get a refresher on what goes where, check out recycling tips and much more on HRM’s website here. You can also download the free Halifax Recycles app to have waste info in the palm of your hand.
Sullivan’s Pond Dragonfly:
The Dragonfly sculpture at Sullivan’s Pond is a special place for many parents and families who have lost a child. The memorial opened in 2015 and the idea behind it was to provide a space where visitors can have a moment of personal reflection and embrace the park as 100 per cent their own, and no one else’s, for the time that they spend there. The memorial was never intended to be an individual monument, which is why there is no list of names, and no individual markers. People still leave items such as painted rocks, ornaments, or flowers at the Dragonfly though, which is to be expected. Grief over the loss of a child is unique to each individual and there is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving something at the Dragonfly.
The accumulation of items does sometimes create challenges though. If everything that was left at the Dragonfly remained in place forever, the park site would quickly get overwhelmed with individual items! HRM Park staff try to be respectful of everything that’s placed there and they generally move things aside when tending to the beds before returning them. They don’t rush to remove anything.
I’m writing this because we recently had an incident where a family left a few items at the Dragonfly, including a painted rock, that were promptly removed. It was very upsetting to them. I followed up and it wasn’t HRM staff that collected the items. Someone else had gathered them up. Two thoughts: the Dragonfly is a public space and anything left there won’t be there forever, but also, if you do happen upon items left at memorial, think carefully before you remove them. Items left there are left with intent and have meaning to someone. The best approach would be to leave clean up of the site to HRM staff.
It’s that time of year where our world turns green again. We’re lucky in HRM to have dedicated horticultural staff who are passionate about creating beautiful spaces for all of us to enjoy. They do amazing work in our parks and with the street planters!
Unfortunately, one of the issues that our horticulturalists contend with is theft. It might seem strange, but every year some plants from HRM gardens seem to grow legs and wander off. It’s incredibly discouraging for staff who spend so much time on the beds and planters when this happens and sometimes what gets stolen is really irreplaceable. Last year we lost several cactuses from beds in Leighton Dillman Park on the Dartmouth Common. It’s really not easy to replace mature tropicals that HRM has had for years!
So, if you notice someone digging in a park bed that doesn’t look like an HRM employee or is doing so at odd hours, if something just seems a little off, know that plant theft is a real thing and don’t hesitate to call police. To quote an internet meme, it’s people like that who are why we can’t have nice things.
Naturalization Project Dartmouth Common
You might recall that HRM is beginning to experiment with naturalizing sections of municipal land. HRM is like most municipalities in that we mow a lot of land. Grass has a purpose in terms of creating space for people to play, and sit on, but it’s overused. From an ecological point-of-view, grass is almost a desert. It doesn’t provide much in the way of habitat. We often maintain grass, at great expense, in places where we really don’t need to and where it’s not well-suited to grow because of a Victorian cultural attachment to lawns. Increasingly, municipalities around the world are experimenting with naturalizing spaces, such as allowing wildflowers to grow alongside roadways.
Here in HRM, Council asked staff to consider a naturalization strategy, and what staff came back with was a proposal to carry out a series of pilot projects before returning to Council with a formal strategy. One of the pilot projects is on the Dartmouth Common where staff proposed to naturalize a problematic section with low maintenance perennials. A key aspect of naturalizing projects in other cities has been involving community volunteers. Unfortunately, that has proven to be challenging to arrange given the COVID era we’re living in. Plans to go ahead with the Common project last year had to be cancelled and COVID’s third wave has thrown a wrench into this year’s plans too. With plants already purchased, HRM staff are going to go ahead this year with planting.
While it’s unfortunate that community volunteers can’t be part of the initial planting, the municipality is still hoping to engage folks with the ongoing work of carving out and maintaining space for nature. If you’re interested in this project, you can get in touch with the Park’s planner leading HRM’s naturalization projects, Penelope Kuhn at email@example.com.
Diamond Dawgs Blue Jays Grant
Some good news for baseball in Dartmouth. Dartmouth’s Diamond Dawgs is a successful recipient this year of a $25,000 grant from the Toronto Blue Jays, Jays Care Foundation. The grant money will go towards field improvements at Carl Morash Memorial Field in North Woodside and the Penhorn Fields in Woodlawn. Improvements will include work on dugouts, wheelchair accessibility, and more. The Diamond Dawgs are hoping to make baseball more inclusive and also plan to work with the Boys and Girls Club and LGBTQ youth associations to sponsor players. Congratulations to the Diamond Dawgs! To hear firsthand what the grant means for the Dawgs, check out this interview on Global with the Dawg’s Instructor, Jeff Reeves, here. If you have kids that might be interested in joining the Dawgs, you can register online here.
HRM Citizenship Awards
One of the unfortunate impacts of the pandemic is HRM wasn’t able to hold its annual citizenship awards in person. The citizenship awards are handed out every year to grade nine students who show “qualities of leadership and service in the school and community” along with “commendable academic performance.” Each school that opts to participate nominates one recipient. While an in-person ceremony isn’t possible this year, Council did recognize the recipients at our last Council meeting. In District 5, Claire Ferguson of Shambhala School and Robert (Robbie) Swift of Caledonia Junior High were recipients. Well done Claire and Robbie!
If you’re a pet owner that’s struggling in these difficult times, there are services available through the Nova Scotia SPCA that might help. The SPCA offers a pet pantry where families can turn for help with acquiring pet food and litter, the SPCA veterinary hospital has subsidized services for those in need, they offer boarding for emergency situations (like for example someone fleeing domestic violence), adoption and surrender programs, subsidized spaying and neutering, and a trap neuter and return program for feral cat colonies. For more information, check out the SPCA’s website here.
COVID Small Business Support
The Province has opened up applications for the previously announced small business property tax rebate and the small business impact grant.
The Province’s tax rebate program is intended to assist businesses who are struggling to pay their property taxes because of the impacts of COVID shutdowns. To qualify, a business must be primarily engaged in an impacted sector such as in-person restaurants, bars, fitness, recreation, leisure, retail, personal services like barbers and salons, or performing arts. To receive the rebate, businesses must also be based here in Nova Scotia, be independent (no franchises or corporate stores), and have received previous Impact Grants from the Province or be able to show a decline in revenue of 30% or more in April, May or June of 2020. Qualifying businesses will be eligible for either $1,000 or a 50% of their property taxes for the last six months of the 2020-2021 tax year. For more information and to apply, visit the Provincial site here.
The recently announced third iteration of the Provincial Impact Grant is designed to help mitigate losses since the return of stricter COVID restrictions in April. The Impact Grant has two components: (1) 15% of sales revenue from any month from April 2019 to February 2020 up to a maximum of $5,000 and (2) a one-time grant of $5,000. The combined maximum of the two is $10,000. For more information and to apply visit the Provincial site here.
Shannon Park Survey
Now – June 7
In late 2019, Council completed the first phase of the Centre Plan, which established where in the Regional Centre HRM expects significant new growth and development to occur. One of the Centre Plan’s growth areas is Shannon Park. The Centre Plan sets some high-level guidance for Shannon Park, but the exact details of the redevelopment will be worked out through a development agreement process. Canada Lands has now submitted a development agreement application that envisions the creation of 26 new city blocks, commercial and park space, and housing for up to 7,000 new residents. You can learn more about the proposal on the application’s website here.
The development agreement process includes public consultation and, ultimately, a public hearing at Council. Since COVID prevents in-person gatherings, HRM has launched an online survey on the Shannon Park redevelopment. HRM is interested in feedback on building heights, building types (midrise, highrise, lowrise), allowable uses, densities, park locations, and park uses. The survey will be open until June 7 and can be accessed here. If you have questions or additional feedback beyond the survey, you can contact the lead planner working on Shannon Park, Dean MacDougall, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 902-240-7085
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Council Update April 6
Two meetings in one update. Disc golf in North Woodside, HRM’s new Accessibility Strategy, commercial tax reform, and Council pay freeze. Read about it here.
Council Update March 20
The conclusion of 2021 budget deliberations, parking bylaw changes, a high school transit pilot program, plans for police reform, and accessing Silver Sands Beach in Cow Bay. Read about it here.
A, B, Seas
Thursday, May 27, 8:00 pm
Back to the Sea Society
The Back to the Sea Society is celebrating their fifth anniversary with a celebratory event, A, B, Seas. There will be seven presenters during this zoom event, with each speaking for five minutes on fascinating and fun facts about the Ocean and the life that calls it home.
The event is free, but the Back to the Sea Society is also doing some fundraising as well to maximize a potential matching grant from Deloitte. They’re looking to sign up 55 new monthly donors. Funds will be used to help bring back the Touch Tank Hut and the Back to the Sea Society’s Tidal Trekkers program.
To register for A, B, Seas, visit the Back to the Sea site here
Independent Living Workshops
Thursday, May 27, 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Monday, June 1, 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Thursday, June 3, 10:30 – Noon
Independent Living Nova Scotia will be offering several free virtual workshops over the next few weeks. Independent Living is a non-profit whose mission is to support Nova Scotian’s living with disabilities. The workshops will cover a variety of topics including how to set boundaries, dealing with isolation during COVID, and a panel discussion on people’s lived experience. For complete details, check out Independent Living’s website here.
For Her and With Her, Equipping Women for Success in Politics
Thursday May 27, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Have you ever wondered what it takes to get your name on the ballot in Nova Scotia? Explore the process of becoming a political candidate through Equal Voice’s Speaker Series. The speaker series will feature Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayor Amanda McDougall, former interim Green leader Jo-Ann Roberts, and HRM District 12 Councillor, Iona Stoddard. The panel will be moderated by Cumberland North MLA, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin. Equal Voice is a multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing and supporting women at all levels of political office. You can register for this free event here.
C.A.R.P NS Green Network Plan Talk
Wednesday, June 2, 3:30 – 4:30 pm
CARP will be hosting a webinar on the importance of HRM’s Green Network Plan and challenges around sprawl and development in HRM. The two presenters in the webinar will be Karen McKendry and Meredith Baldwin from the Ecology Action Centre. To register for the event, go to Eventbrite here.
2021 HRM Design Awards
Wednesday, June 9, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
The usual in person event isn’t possible, but HRM’s Design Awards are going ahead. The Design Awards were created to recognize the importance of good design in our built environment. Good design helps build better communities by improving the functionality, sustainability, and overall appearance of public and private spaces. Done well, design makes a lasting positive impact for residents. The awards recognize work in several project categories including: urban achirecture, civic design projects, urban elements, community connections and initiatives, heritage restoration, adaptive re-use, and student projects. I’m pleased to see several Dartmouth projects in the running in various categories this year including the Alderney Pedway renovation, the Cancer Survivors Garden, Downtown Dartmouth’s word murals, and Tel Lofts on Wentworth Street. Winners will be announced virtually on June 9. For more information, check out the design awards page here.
Canadian Girls Baseball
Saturday, July 10 – Saturday, August 28
Canadian Girls Baseball will be holding a seven week summer session on the Dartmouth Common. The sessions will be led by an all women coaching staff. No previous baseball experience necessary. T-shirts, uniforms and equipment provided. Cost is $165 for the two sessions. Details on the Canadian Girls Baseball site here.