Last fall, the Town of Coaldale installed several expensive signs around the new wetlands in northwest Coaldale. The town is promoting the pathway and signage on their Facebook page – which states, “consider going for a walk around the centennial ponds to check out the new signage along the pathways – to help educate visitors – and inform what wildlife and vegetation you may be able to see in the area.”
Unfortunately, two of the ‘educational’signs contain many technical errors. The signs are: “WHAT LIVES HERE?” [Animals] and “WHAT GROWS HERE?” [Plants]. The signs contain so much misleading and scientifically incorrect information that, had they been prepared by a high school student for a biology project, the teacher would have given a failing grade. Unfortunately, town administration refuses to discuss the signs and will not take any action to correct the signs. They have approved the error-filled signs and consider the matter closed.
It is extremely unlikely citizens will ever see the majority of species on the “animals” sign. In the past two decades, I’ve spent at least 1,000 hours at the existing wetlands and taken well over 50,000 photos of wildlife in and around the ponds and have never seen the majority of species listed on the “animals” sign. They are simply not here and unlikely to ever be here. On the other hand, casual wildlife watchers are certain to routinely see at least 20 species that are not on the sign. The “animals” sign completely misses the mark and does not represent reality now or well into the future.
In 2016, the town’s consultant asked me to complete a survey of animals in our local wetlands. The survey listed over 100 species and asked if species would be ‘expected’or ‘rare’or ‘not expected.’Of the 39 species on the new signs, 24 species were not even on the original survey. And, most of the commonly seen species (on the survey form) were left off the sign. It is a mystery how the signs could be so inaccurate. So much for public consultation.
Added to the above misrepresentations are blatant scientific errors. Some species of plants and animals are identified with incorrect scientific and/or common names. “Northern oriole” is not an accepted common name. The scientific name of the garter snake pictured on the sign is wrong. On the “plants” sign, the scientific name of northern wheatgrass is wrong and “pondweed” is misspelled. The “plants” sign also lists one subtropical grass species native to Africa and the southern U.S. and considered an invasive species. The “plants” sign lists species of grasses the town indicated were not planted. Conversely, several species the town said were planted are not on the sign. There is an utter disconnect between the town, the consultant, the signs, science and reality.
The mayor and council seemingly have no genuine interest in educating the public or they would be willing to talk about the signs and replace the signs with ones that contain reliable information. The signs are unacceptable, but worse is the town’s response to the problem. On March 19, the mayor wrote, “this matter [is] closed.” This council is satisfied with the disgraceful signs.
These two signs cost well over $10,000 – paid for by citizens with a provincial grant. We deserve much better.