Foxtails Update - June 2023

June Update

A few months ago, I presented a Notice of Motion to address Foxtails through our Community Standards Bylaw, to fill a gap that education and City/Local mitigation efforts are unable to address. It was supported by my Council colleagues 14-1 to move forward.

Notice of Motion – Addressing Foxtail Barley, EC2023-0328 (

You can view the discussion and debate here: Regular Meeting of Council - April 25, 2023 (

Administration will be coming back with thorough recommendations on June 28, at the Community Development Committee. If successful, it will go onto the July 4 Meeting of Council for final approval.

June 28 Community Development Committee - Item 7.3


The Foxtail Journey

To begin, I’d like to acknowledge the research and advocacy work done on Foxtail Barley (foxtails) by the good people of our Ward. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to educate their friends and neighbours, stopped to pull foxtail in their yards and in parks/pathways, and advocated for action to mitigate this issue impacting so many of our neighbours.

Since coming into office, we have had numerous discussions with many departments within the city. Knowing that a multi-pronged approach would be our best hope for success, we have worked closely with Parks, Bylaw, landowners, and local news outlets to address issues and get the word out.

City Response

As a group, Parks & Open Spaces has initiated many strategies, including but not limited to:

  • Agronomic practices such as aerating, fertilizing and topdressing to improve turf health and retention;
  • Hand pulling and bagging in saturated areas;
  • Adapted mowing practices such as Increased frequency of mowing schedules and lowering of blades, where prudent, along with bagging in problem areas;
  • Planting various mixes of micro clover and grass seed in areas where foxtail has optimum growing conditions (high-use greenspaces, boulevards, medians, high-traffic areas);
  • Application of non-selective herbicides in shrub beds to eliminate unwanted vegetation;
  • Spot-pulling, replanting with native grasses and small woody species, and bark mulch spreading in shrub beds;
  • Supplemental watering;
  • Focus on areas where dogs frequent, including the Auburn Bay Off-leash Park; and
  • Constant communication with the Ward 12 Office for location prioritization.

All told, The City’s efforts had a substantial cost, estimated at approximately $50,000 in 2022. We have verbal commitments for similar treatment this year and in future years.


Education and Advocacy

Beyond Parks’ increased workload, we have been engaged in building awareness and catalyzing volunteer projects to build a link between The City and residents. Local veterinarians have seen an uptick in pet owners’ awareness of the dangers, and a few have even referenced a reduction in pets needing to be treated for the effects.

This past summer, we worked hard to bring attention to this challenge through local media sources.

Through discussions with local developers and pushing for greater cooperation, we have seen a decrease in major infestations on land under development. We know that this is still an area for improvement, and we continue to push for more work in this space. We know foxtails thrive in bare soil and the environment left behind during land preparation, so we actively share successful projects with other developers in the ward to encourage them all to uphold their responsibilities as good neighbours.

Notice of Motion and Pending Bylaw

While there is a bylaw in place that addresses vegetation growth beyond 15cm, and would cover many instances of Foxtail, it doesn’t properly address the potential for seed propagation post-cut or large properties covered in the plant. Therefore, I have brought forth a Notice of Motion to address these circumstances and provide more tools for our Community Standards and Bylaw policies. On April 25, this Notice passed Council by a vote of 14-1. What I have asked our Administration to return with, is a plan to communicate to residents about the dangers of Foxtails and how to remove them, and for an addition to our Community Standards Bylaw to address large tracts of vegetation.

You can view the discussion and debate here: Regular Meeting of Council - April 25, 2023 (

The proposed bylaw is in Committee on June 28th and you can see the work Administration is bringing back here: June 28 Community Development Committee - Item 7.3. If successful, it will go onto the July 4 Meeting of Council for final approval. Once approved the bylaw will immediately come into effect and become part of the Foxtail mitigation tools that The City has at its disposal. 


Volunteer Efforts

I would like to again recognize the significant efforts dedicated to foxtail mitigation, by our neighbours and local volunteers that have organized and gotten involved in various initiatives. In open spaces, we have also seen City teams supported by volunteers hand-pulling and bagging foxtails at various stages of growth. We have spoken to members of the public who care for their local shrub beds on both public and private properties. These efforts play a big role in both tackling problem areas and achieving strong mitigation outcomes.

We will be organizing some further volunteer events late June and into July and you can expect to see details on these soon. This work continues with the guidance of the Parks Department and we hope to increasingly link it to their Adopt-a-Park program. These volunteer campaigns will be advertised through our social media platforms.

If you have a park or green space of interest and are interested in organizing, please consider signing up with the link below:

Please also consider contacting our office ([email protected]) and letting us know and starting a conversation about potential support.


Closing Thoughts

While I am optimistic that the continuation of past efforts is leading towards better results each year I know that I have an ongoing responsibility to look out for the well-being and livability of Ward 12 constituents. I am glad to see that combined advocacy is making pet owners better aware and safer, resulting in fewer pets requiring surgery or facing tragic outcomes. Providing the tools for us to address concerns, no matter the scale, allows The City to tackle problem areas and continue to make Calgary a safe place for both 2 and 4-legged creatures. Tackling Foxtails isn’t and won’t be easy. Because the plant is native to this area, it’s not invasive by definition and isn’t going to be driven away by simply targeting it through bylaws. It actually has benefits for the soils that it grows in. If not for the risks to our pets, we would embrace this plant that helps to retain soil and reduce salinity, allowing for other vegetation to move in.

This isn’t about pointing fingers at any particular entity, either. The City relies on industry to build the amazing communities that we have chosen to live in. They have similarly been learning about Foxtail and how best to deal with it when it starts to move into freshly stripped land. The new bylaw will be an important tool but one that we hopefully will not have to use often. Like all bylaws, the hope is that they guide our common life together for the betterment of all.

I will continue to advocate for constituents concerned about Foxtails. We have made great strides so far, but we aren’t done yet.


As always, if you have any questions or feedback, don't hesitate to reach out. 


Cllr. Evan Spencer

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 403.826.4351

  • Evan Spencer
    published this page in Blog 2023-06-23 16:59:03 -0600