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Peterborough Mayor’s Prickly Answer To Simple Question About Lawn Maintenance Prompts Deeper Environmental Conversation 

Despite calling the question ridiculous, Diane Therrien made a good point on eco-friendly lawns.

PETERBOROUGH-Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien’s caustic response to an innocuous question from Kawartha 411 about lawn maintenance has prompted a deeper discussion about environmentally-friendly lawns.

Kawartha 411 was approached earlier this summer by residents who live in the area of Monaghan Road south of Parkhill who were complaining about the state of the lawn at what they believed to be Therrien’s residence. The grass there had not been cut once this year.  It turns out Therrien says she does not live there anymore- she used to, but she said it is the home of her ex-husband only.  The Mayor responded to our questions by calling these former neighbours “pretentious and dimwitted”.

“Absolutely AMAZING that this is “newsworthy” in your opinion.

I do not live at that property, I haven’t for well over a year.

Your gossip is inaccurate and quite frankly, ridiculous.

There are several people in that neighbourhood who choose to leave their lawns, it is good for pollinators.

I cannot speak for my ex, though I would be interested to hear how his choice to leave his lawn is impacting the lives of these pretentious and dimwitted neighbours. What a beautiful life they must live if this is of such great concern to them,” the mayor wrote in an email to Kawartha 411.

We stand by our questions of the mayor. Kawartha 411 was merely trying to determine if any of the city bylaws were being violated with the lawn not being maintained. It is addressed by this section of the home and property bylaw:

“The Property Maintenance By-law is primarily concerned with the general appearance of a property. Maintenance standards include restrictions on grass and weed height, and the storage of junk, garbage, inoperable machinery and vehicles. The timelines for compliance are much shorter than under the Property Standards By-law. This by-law tends to be applied when a particular property doesn’t have the same degree of maintenance as the others in a neighbourhood.”

The bylaw states growth in excess of 20 cm is not permitted.

Those neighbours who complained to us about the state of the lawn have a recourse in the complaint section of the bylaw:

“Before filing a property standards complaint, please ensure that you have done all you can do to resolve the problem. This would include notifying the property owner or the landlord/property manager about the nature of the problem. You cannot expect someone to address an issue if they do not know about it,” it states.

It is unclear whether any neighbours have filed an official complaint, or if Therrien is still an owner of the property. Neighbours report seeing her vehicle in the driveway on a regular basis.

Kawartha 411 then reached out to the environmental organization Peterborough GreenUP to talk about environmentally-friendly lawns.

“A lawn is really an outdated symbol of status. It’s a colonial thing,” said GreenUP’s director of programs Heather Ray. “We promote people moving away from having a lawn and moving towards having more tolerant native species that require less water input and no pesticides – lawns that provide actual ecological function.”

The lawn of the future? This eco-friendly lawn in downtown Peterborough shows how native species can be incorporated into a front yard.
Photo by John McFadden

Ray said that lawns that have native species with deeper roots are far better for stormwater management as they are able to absorb much more precipitation. She added they also provide pollinator support, habitat and help cool down the city.

“Native plants and their root systems are a big part of green infrastructure. A traditional lawn’s root system is quite shallow.  Native species have deeper roots and require less watering. Native species allow groundwater to be cleaned and replenished, especially during times of rain without overwhelming our stormwater system. We don’t see that benefit when we look at a lawn,” Ray said.

She added people seeking to transform their lawns into a more eco-friendly space can check out GreenUP’s Water Wise program to get tips or learn more about sustainable lawn alternatives.

Click here for more information:https://www.greenup.on.ca/programcategories/waterwise/

We reached out to the City to see if they had any plans to change the Property Maintenance Bylaw to reflect the Mayor’s views on traditional lawns but have not yet heard back.

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John McFadden
After graduating from Fanshawe College in London, Ont. with a diploma in broadcast journalism John began his career right here in the Kawarthas at what was then called CKLY in Lindsay. From there John went to CHEX-TV and Wolf Radio in Peterborough as a TV and radio news and sportscaster and morning radio show co-host. John moved on to City-TV and CP24 in Toronto. He covered and reported on many important stories including the SARS outbreak. John then moved to the CBC in Toronto as a senior news writer and sports producer.Wanting a change of scenery John went to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 2012 where he earned seven National Community Newspaper Awards covering stories in Canada's Arctic while working for Northern News Services.He returned to Ontario in 2021 and has been writing news stories for Kawartha 411 since late 2021.

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