Willowbank has been charged for violating a bylaw for having a meadow of grass or weeds over 20 centimetres, and is asking council for an exemption to the bylaw.
Caitlin Wooll, the education coordinator of Willowbank’s School of Restoration Arts, told councillors the Queenston estate meadow has existed for a decade, and has never received a notice of violation before. The meadow shouldn’t fall under that bylaw, she says — it’s a grassland habitat similar to other meadows, such as outside Fort George on the Commons.
There is a “clearly defined path” from the gate on Queenston Street, on the east side of the estate, through the meadow to the front door of the building, with clear signage explaining about the meadow and asking people to stay on the path, she said.
Wooll believes there was one complaint about the length of the grass, which prompted the visit from a bylaw officer, she told councillors.
“As soon as we got the violation, I contacted Niagara Parks,” she explained. An expert surveyed the meadow, finding 30 different plants, including milkweed, which the butterflies like, plants that attract birds, and two baby deer who nest in the meadow when their mother is out getting food. The expert was confident, she says, that the meadow is significant.
Her stance, she says, is that the meadow is long-standing, beautiful, and “so necessary” for all the insects, animals and plants found there. It is very ecologically significant, and part of the cultural landscape, she said.
Coun. Gary Burroughs made a notice of motion that it be allowed to remain, that is expected to be discussed at next month’s council meeting.