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Events and News
15th Oct


Re-naturalization of Riverlot 56 Open Fields

The first major effort to tackle the issue of weed infestation and forest re-naturalization in the open fields at Riverlot 56 has now been implemented. The first action started in May of 2014. The focus has been the field north of Sturgeon Road, east of Kingswood Park in what is sometimes called the ‘lower’ riverlot. The long-term goal is to deal with all the ‘disturbed’ open field areas on the upper and lower sections of Riverlot 56. These areas have been hay fields for a long time.

The scope of the initial actions greatly increased when discussions with STANSKI indicated the application of an existing grant for ski trail development could be applied to the re-naturalization efforts. Con Tanasiuk of STANSKI shared a vision that through cooperative effort, a new ski trail was possible. It was mutually beneficial to both organizations to work together to create a win-win change in the fields of the lower riverlot. Thanks go to STANSKI members Ken Ryniak, Pat Kelly and Geo Rawlins for laying out an appropriate ski trail.

As work concludes in the fall, the results are quite visible. At ground level, the fields are dotted with trees and ‘planting islands’. A new ski trail winds through the plantings and is delineated by the trees. This trail can actually be seen on Google Earth aerial photos presumably taken from very high altitudes.


New Trail Location

In the aerial photo, a super-imposed red line accurately corresponds to the visible trail as seen from above. This is the most recent photo posted on Google Earth. It was taken on August 8th, 2014, part way through this year’s activity, just before larger trees were planted. Also visible (but not highlighted) are the locations of wire-fenced deer exclosures (seen as three perfect circles) and ‘planting islands’, areas where clustered plantings mainly of spruce and trembling aspen occurred.

The actual length of the new ski trail, which will go into use this winter, is roughly 760 metres. When used in conjunction with a previous trail edging the forest at the west end of the open field, it provides a new loop of 980 metres, nearly a kilometre.

A fairly accurate count of the trees and shrubs planted throughout the area over the summer came to 2069 with the top two species being White Spruce 1030 and Trembling Aspen 651. Other trees and shrubs included: Dogwood, Balsam Poplar, Honeysuckle, Pin Cherry, Wild Rose, Wild Raspberry, Buckbrush, Gooseberry and Saskatoon.

The grand total of volunteer and paid assistance hours probably exceeded 800 hours. The lead representative of Riverlot 56 managing the project tallied 375 plus volunteer hours. Funds were expended to hire young workers, many sons and daughters of STANSKI members and some biological science majors from NAIT, to do a good deal of planting and watering. This totalled just under 200 hours and was essential early in June. It was critical to get fragile seedlings into the ground and without this labour and also the added help of many volunteers, some as young as six years old, others in their seventies, success would not have been possible.

Arrowhead Nurseries of Edmonton provided 90 large White Spruce and Trembling Aspen and did the actual work of digging the holes and placing the trees in the locations identified under the guidance of owner John Vriend. These larger trees were planted in August and help significantly in the delineation of the new ski trail. Nearly half the cost of the entire project is tied up in these hand-picked 90 trees which are generally eight feet in height or higher.

The total budget for the project was $47,500.00, all provided through the assistance of STANSKI’s grant(s). The final tally of expenses was just one cent off that amount. The accounting assistance of Jayne Thomson, Treasurer with STANSKI, is acknowledged and was much appreciated.

The City of St. Albert and the County of Sturgeon provided a variety of support including: mowing of the fields twice over the growing season to control weed growth in unplanted areas; three truck loads of wood mulch; a partial roll of plastic mulch to reduce weed and grass competition and over 100 metal T-bar left from a developer’s site for building exclosures to protect plantings from deer browsing.

Two commercial suppliers for the project notably donated some trees and water. They were Tree Time Services and Rebel Heart Trucking. Nearly 100 cubic metres of water were hauled to the site for the watering of the trees and shrubs.

Special mention of the contributions in wisdom from people like Peter Murphy of the University of Alberta, Patsy Cotterill of Wagner Natural Area, Kevin Veenstra of the City of St. Albert and many others helped shape this undertaking.

George and Mary Binette were strong support to project leader Dan Stoker in carrying through with the work. Dan also acknowledges his wife, Mary, who tolerated his preoccupation with trees and shrubs instead of household chores and yard work. There were numerous other volunteers whose support and work effort made success happen.