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Spirit Woods are a cultural hub in Royalwood

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Shawn Stankewich has been inspired by the Bois-des-Esprits in Royalwood. A master’s of landscape architecture student at the University of Manitoba, Stankewich features the Bois in his program practicum.

With no community club or school in Royalwood, Stankewich found the Bois-des-Esprits represents a neighbourhood hub, where people could gather and connect with the natural beauty.

"It’s one of things that really pushed me to pursue this site as one of my practicum studies", he says.

Passionate about ecology, design, and education, Stankewich aspires to create landscapes that reflect and interpret natural phenomena within the urban fabric.

Stankewich views Murray Watson’s carvings, including the iconic forest spirit Woody, as an example of incorporating culture into the Bois while maintaining its ecological systems and protecting wildlife habitats.

"I am particularly concerned with how landscape architecture can help people to engage their surroundings and learn to truly appreciate the wonders of the natural world", Stankewich says.

"Only then will we have a citizenry that is dedicated to protecting places like the Bois-des-Esprits".

Stankewich’s practicum involves proposed trail improvements in the Bois —even a bridge to nearby St. Vital.

For example, he envisions the present aspen grove in the north-south centre of the forest as an opportunity to introduce native plant species with interpretive signage. Visitors could then learn about the different species and become motivated to incorporate more of them into their own yards.

"The succession garden would have five different plots that would be managed for different stages of forest succession so that visitors could experience all of the stages in one place", Stankewich explains.

Stankewich is a strong advocate of raising awareness about the landscape architect profession.

"The purpose of my project is to increase public understanding about the role of landscape architecture", Stankewich says. "It is far more than ‘the green around the buildings’, but a way of re-imagining our outdoor spaces".

Currently employed with Plain Projects, a local landscape architecture and environmental design studio, Stankewich hopes his vision for the Bois-des-Esprits becomes reality. His practicum was recently featured on Land8 Lounge, a social networking site for landscape architects.

Royalwood residents can watch for Stankewich hard at work in the Bois.

To learn more about his project, visit  http://land8.com/photo/albums/cela-2013-presentation-poster-3-designs-for-the-lake-winnipeg or contact Stankewich at shawn@plainprojects.ca.

Tanya Misseghers is a community correspondent for Royalwood.

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