Elbow Valley

Interview with Mike Riley - Elbow Valley General Manager, June 28, 2007

www.elbowvalley.org for more information

Naturalized landscapes ARE possible in the Calgary area. Elbow Valley, Canada's Community of the Year in 1999 and 2004, just west of Calgary, has been natural in all of its public spaces and in the private yards of homeowners, since it’s inception in the late 1990s.

The area consisting of clusters of homes set amongst a large private reserve, is largely “landscaped” with existing native species and plants, supplemented by the reintroduction of native species of trees, shrubs and plants, native to the Calgary area. And it looks great!

Because of a restrictive covenant on their homes, Homeowners also only plant primarily indigenous species on their own private land.

The process of returning to nature requires effort and commitment but there is lots of that in Elbow Valley. Native species are gradually reintroduced and over a period of three years harden, reacclimatize themselves to the southern Alberta environment and move to the point where they are essentially self-sustaining without further watering, fertilizing, weeding or care. The careful selection of native fescue grasses, for example, results in the longer term elimination of noxious and broadleaf weeds.
Homeowners do have a small “manicured” area immediately around their homes, but the emphasis is on the natural and self sustaining. Experience has been that there are many interesting trees, shrubs and plants available that meet the natural criteria. These are readily available from local nurseries that specialize in native stock. A little bit of research is all that is required.

"There is a very strong vision for the Elbow Valley development and we remain on that path," says Mike Riley, General Manager for Elbow  Valley. The community south of Highway 8, is 9 years old and the landscape is well on its way to establishing itself naturally.