Society for
Organic Urban
Land Care

2022 Greener Greenspace Profile

Demonstration Gardens at the Okotoks Operations Centre

Located in Okotoks, Alberta, the gardens on the grounds of the Okotoks Operations Centre emulate the natural habitats of the Foothill region of Alberta.  

Design and Process 

The demonstration gardens on the site of the Okotoks Operations Centre were designed to mimic the natural ecology of the Foothill region. The garden includes a variety of species designed to attract wildlife. By incorporating a diversity of native plants, the greenspace supports many native pollinators and the biological diversity in the community. Water is a precious resource in Okotoks, so landscape design must take into account the dry climate. To conserve water, the selected plants are drought tolerant and don't require irrigation. Stormwater is directed off of the nearby parking lot and building into mulch beds and bioretention areas, slowing, storing and filtering the water before it reaches the river or enters the groundwater. The soil in the perennial, tree and shrub beds is protected with mulch and plant material. Pruned plant material and leaves are left to decompose in place thereby adding nutrients back to the soil.

The gardens around the Operations Centre demonstrate the town's commitment to biodiversity and sustainable landscaping practices. The grounds also inspire Okotoks residents to enhance biodiversity in their own yards and decrease the use of gas emitting garden tools. 

Okotoks is a Bee City, and this commitment has led Okotoks to reduce its overall use of chemical pesticides and herbicides to maintain its greenspaces and to use sustainable management strategies. This site is no exception, and Okotoks uses chemical-free strategies such as steaming and pruning to control weeds. Many of the native plants incorporated into the garden design are also considered deer resistant, as urban deer are known to do extensive damage to their preferred plants. During the summer of 2022, 100 native plant plugs were added to the beds. These plants were carefully chosen to attract more pollinators to the site. With hopes to attract monarch butterflies, some of the plant plugs added were showy milkweed, the host plant for the butterfly.

Community Collaboration

The grounds act as an outdoor extension of the Environmental Education Centre (EEC), which is located inside the Okotoks Operations Centre. At the Environmental Education Centre residents learn about the alternative ground cover used on site, and about soil and water infiltration. To further raise awareness, there is also outdoor interpretive signage for the public to learn about non-turf yards, soil, biodiversity, storm water and the nearby Sheep River. In March 2022, weekly programming started in the Environmental Education Centre. The Nature Friday programming invites community members to visit and learn about sustainable practices in town, notably pollinator habitat protection and water conservation measures.

Overeall, the garden supports the Town of Okotoks Environmental Master Plan in the areas of increasing native plant species in town, reducing outdoor use of potable water, and enhancing and protecting local ecosystems. 

The demonstration gardens on the site of the Okotoks Operation Centre were first recognized by SOUL in 2021 and the Greener Greenspace recognition was renewed in 2022. The town appreciated being recognized for their sustainable care and maintenance practices that have increased biodversity, reduced their environmental footprint, and inspired local residents.  

Greener Greenspaces is a recognition program for sites from across Canada that exemplify greener greenspace stewardship. The aim of the program is to showcase examples of ecologically-focused land care as a means to inspire others and to further the movement across Canada.

See the full list of 2022 recognition recipients here

Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL)
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