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Battling the dreaded buckthorn

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Recently-appointed Minister of Education James Allum (right) alongside Allan Barry of the Wildwood Heritage and Conservation Committee during a buckthorn removal effort at Crescent Park.

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Recently-appointed Minister of Education James Allum (right) alongside Allan Barry of the Wildwood Heritage and Conservation Committee during a buckthorn removal effort at Crescent Park. Photo Store

It was early Saturday morning on Sept. 28, and as I drove through the cold, steady rain toward Crescent Park, I honestly believed only a few brave souls would be on hand when I arrived.

The good folks of Crescent Park Rescue (ably assisted by the Wildwood Heritage and Conservation Committee) had planned another excellent community event, this time, to remove European buckthorn from the park. At the best of times this is no small undertaking, as the roots of this invasive species have to be pulled out by hand in order to remove them completely.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived to find a small army of folks preparing to ignore the terrible weather and get on with the hard work in one of Winnipeg’s most scenic parks. This is community building at its best!

Armed with equipment and information supplied by very dedicated City of Winnipeg staff, our large group of volunteers spent several hours doing battle with the dreaded buckthorn, the dense thickets of which choke out native vegetation. Given its rapid spread through the park, the plan is to divide the forest into manageable sections and systematically remove the shrub. 

In short order, and despite the miserable conditions, an "esprit de corps" began to take hold in our group and we made good progress in at least one section of the park.

Much was accomplished, but there is still more to do! As the job is best carried out in the early spring and late fall, Crescent Park Rescue hosted another "work bee" on Oct. 19 to keep the momentum going. And next spring there will be more opportunities to help, as buckthorn removal will continue for the foreseeable future.

Many thanks to Crescent Park Rescue for organizing the event and providing a mobile site for hot drinks and snacks — not to mention rain gear and gloves for the forgetful (me, anyway). Without their leadership, the conservation of this marvellous sanctuary simply would not happen! When combined with the preservation efforts undertaken in Wildwood Park and in Riverview along Churchill Drive, it’s pretty clear that Fort Garry-Riverview is among the most sustainable constituencies in Manitoba!

None of this happens by magic, but is the direct product of citizen engagement in community building. When neighbours unite to undertake a community project we build bonds with one another, while strengthening our community at the same time. To me, this is the very definition of citizenship and what makes Fort Garry-Riverview such a special place!

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