News

Norfolk downsizes roadside cutting

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

A plan to reduce Norfolk’s summer roadside cutting program is expected to benefit pollinator species, such as the monarch butterfly. Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed along Norfolk roads and are impacted when the county conducts its annual roadside cut in August.(Mike Hensen/Postmedia Network)

A plan to reduce Norfolk’s summer roadside cutting program is expected to benefit pollinator species, such as the monarch butterfly. Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed along Norfolk roads and are impacted when the county conducts its annual roadside cut in August.(Mike Hensen/Postmedia Network)

SIMCOE - 

Norfolk County has hit on a way to save money while being environmentally conscious.

Norfolk’s community services department has been directed to devise a plan for the August roadside mowing that focuses on areas necessary for proper traffic sight lines.

Other locations will be allowed to grow wild. This will reduce wildlife mortality, while preserving butterfly and other pollinator habitat.

The resolution was put forward by Simcoe Coun. Peter Black. Speaking in support were local field naturalists Bernie Solymar, of Simcoe, and Stuart Mackenzie of Bird Studies Canada in Port Rowan.

Mackenzie told council this week that that the new plan represents an opportunity to build on Norfolk’s reputation as “Ontario’s Garden.”

“Why not make it `Ontario’s ’Wild’ Garden’ as well?” Mackenzie asked.

Local field naturalists have been concerned about the county’s roadside mowing program for years. The second cutting in August coincides with a critical phase of the monarch butterfly’s feeding cycle.

Monarch caterpillars eat nothing but milkweed. There are concerns that roadside mowing kills enormous numbers of caterpillars, not to mention other wildlife that gravitates to tall-grass habitat.

A similar proposal came to council several years ago. Councillors then dismissed it over concerns the county would become overgrown and unsightly, prompting complaints from the public.

Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus asked Mackenzie and Solymar how the county should respond if farmers take it upon themselves to mow the tall grass in the road allowance adjoining their acreages.

Mackenzie said they can have at it.

“Private landowners can do what they want in front of their property,” he said. “Far be it from me and the county to tell them what to do with their land. It’s not ideal, but I’m not going to pick that fight.”

Solymar added: “We’re here to be constructive. We’re not being critical. But we feel there are changes that can be made that will be beneficial to the county.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com