It’s a tree-hugger’s paradise.
Evergreens that decorated people’s homes as they celebrated Christmas have been repurposed into river decor.
Sam Yoshida, Jake Wolfe and Mark Dewar first began collecting discarded trees left outside by Wolseley neighbourhood residents last year, to repurpose on the Assiniboine River as accoutrements for the makeshift public curling rink, ice bar and fire ring the trio had constructed near their homes.
"It was just a chance to get outside, and there was beautiful weather last year, so it really worked out well… (The tress) just kind of helps break the wind and adds to the scenery — it’s pretty great," Dewar said.
This year, the three were determined to do it again.
They picked up 50 trees from around the neighbourhood Tuesday, and expect to have about 80 trees total on the ice. Not all of the amenities (accessible via Telfer Street) are quite ready yet, but Dewar said they’re hoping to set up some of last year’s favourites — and introduce some new activities — for visitors taking advantage of winter recreation.
"It’ll be a consistent work in progress. Right now, Jake and Sam are working on an ice bar… Last year, we had a curling rink and a little crokinole board, but I don’t know if we’re going to do that this year, that took a bit of work," he said.
“We’re probably going to set up something where we could run a battery–operated projector down there and watch (Winnipeg) Jets games.” – Mark Dewar
"We’re probably going to set up something where we could run a battery-operated projector down there and watch (Winnipeg) Jets games."
There’s only a brief time span where all their hard work can be enjoyed — and even that is up in the air, depending on how mild this winter turns out to be — but the benefits far outweigh the work, Dewar said.
"It takes shape for a bit, and it gets really full bore probably in late January, early February, and then we get about a month in the bit, and then that’s it."
They’re not alone in their quest to beautify the local ice. Stretching from the Maryland Bridge west to Omand’s Creek, the Assiniboine River has long been a space for Wolseley residents to set up winter wonderlands open to everyone. This year is no different — and that desire only intensified when the pandemic forced people to get creative about gathering, Wolfe said.
"A chunk of it is the COVID aspect, people can’t get out and go to rec centre or whatever, so it’s an avenue for people to get out and get down there," he said. "But also, it’s just cool. It’s fun, it’s neat."
People within the Wolseley community and those just passing through are drawn to the beautification projects on the ice, both Wolfe and Dewar said, and that atmosphere will hopefully help bring them together in increasingly strange times.
"Once you do it once, you’re kind of looking to up the ante every time after," Dewar said with a laugh.
"It’s fun to sit there have a fire, and folks from the community come by and say hi. It’s nice and it’s done in a fairly safe way… You have to be able to roll with the punches with all this COVID stuff going on, and this is just one way we’re adapting and rolling with it to kind of keep things going try and keep sense of community."
"It’s sort of like building a sand castle on the beach, you know. It’s not a perfect structure, it’s not going to be there forever but people walk by and get a kick out of it," Wolfe added. "It’s this creative outlet."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.