Council approves motion to support ‘No Mow May’

Kingston City Council has approved a motion to participate in No Mow May, which seeks to support bees and other pollinators by encouraging residents not to cut their lawns for the month of May. Photo by Jessica Foley.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, members of Kingston City Council voted to encourage residents to participate in a new initiative called ‘No Mow May.’

The program, which was presented to Council in the form of a new motion moved by Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo, encourages residents to “limit lawn mowing practices during the month of May, to provide early season foraging resources for pollinators that emerge in the spring.” 

Pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, play a critical role in maintaining the earth’s ecosystem. However, Canada’s pollinator population has declined sharply over the past 10 years, in large part due to the use of pesticides and the destruction of habitat. “One-third of all of the food that we eat is affected by pollinators, and we need to ensure that we have a future for our kids and a future food supply,” said Tozzo. 

Councillor Tozzo speaks to the Now Mow May motion. Screen captured photo.

“This motion is voluntary; it is not required. People can voluntarily choose to devote part or all of their lawns… I’m hoping this is the start of something great that Kingston can do and we can amplify this [from] year to year.”

The motion presented to councillors ahead of Tuesday’s meeting noted that “the ideal pollinator-friendly habitat is one comprised of mostly native wildflowers, grasses, vines, shrubs, and trees, blooming in succession throughout the growing season.” In partnership with the Rotary Club of Kingston, 1,000 free lawn signs will be distributed to members of the public, allowing interested residents to advertise their participation in the program. 

As part of the initiative, City staff have been directed to suspend enforcement of the property standards bylaw, which mandates that lawns in the City of Kingston be no longer than 20 centimetres. For the month of May, residents will be encouraged to exceed the maximum length, in an attempt to increase and promote “pollinator-friendly habitats.” 

The program is just the latest in a string of initiatives put forward by the City following the Council’s 2019 climate emergency declaration. In December 2022, City Council passed a motion permitting pollinator gardens on public property. Now, No Mow May seeks to further the City’s efforts to support bees and other vital insects, by encouraging residents to maintain lawns that provide the necessary early spring resources for pollinators.

Throughout the month of May, the City of Kingston will promote No Mow May through posts to its social media channels, including educational posts about the movement, in an attempt to remind residents about the benefits of abstaining from lawn mowing. 

Prior to voting on the motion, councillors heard from several delegations regarding the proposed initiative. Elsabe Falkson, a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Kingston, said No Mow May will help “start to change mindsets to appreciate, protect, and enhance biodiversity in our city and to appreciate the role of biodiversity in mitigating our climate emergency.”

“Research shows there are environmental, economic, and health benefits from mowing less and by moving away from monoculture lawns and developing naturalized gardens,” Falkson added. 

Nathan Nesdoly, a volunteer with Little Forests Kingston, called the initiative “an opportunity to engage citizens and develop their awareness of the importance of restoring habitat to the numerous organisms who comprise our urban ecosystem.

“We are only one species among many. Committing even a fraction of our current lawn area to native plants would extend food and habitat for countless species of bees, and other pollinators such as ants, butterflies, and moths,” added Nesdoly. 

Councillor Osanic shares her thoughts on No Mow May. Screen captured photo.

Once the motion was brought forward for debate, Collins-Bayridge District Councillor Lisa Osanic spoke about the need to support the pollinator population: “I do support this motion. I’ve read some books on the huge drop in our insect population… It’s devastating when you actually see how the numbers have declined.”

“What I like about this,” added the councillor, “is that it’s voluntary. I know that there are lots of people in Kingston who do like their lawn and appreciate their lawn… We’re just asking, for the month of May, not to cut [your lawn]. You can cut in June. [But] this is strictly voluntary.”

Countryside District Councillor Gary Oosterhof also spoke in favour of No Mow May, noting that many rural residents already practice biodiverse lawn care. “Much of this actually occurs in the rural area… This happens in so many ways, in the lands that you see that are not necessarily farmlands. I celebrate it because I live it, [and] our [district] lives it in so many ways.” 

Tozzo’s motion passed with unanimous support from City Council. Along with promoting the Now Mow May initiative in 2023, councillors amended the motion to ask City staff to prepare a list of City-owned properties that can be included in the program in 2024.

Residents can sign-up for their ‘Bee Friendly No Mow May’ signs through Rotary Club of Kingston.

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