-8° C, A few clouds
© 2022 Our Communities
Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.
Two weeks ago, I attended an event honouring Jules Legal, Marcel Ritchot, and Jim Gyselinck. In 2002, Marcel and Jim (now deceased) stood in front of bulldozers cutting a swath through a cherished forest east of the Seine River. Jules was busy working the phones — talking to the media and politicians from all levels of government. Although much of the forest was saved, they still express disbelief that the city allowed the forest to be cut — without a permit.
The City of Winnipeg’s 1994 zoning bylaw seemed clear:
“No person shall undertake or permit the existence of a development without first making application and obtaining a development permit for that purpose.”
Photo by Michele Kading
Winnipeg’s zoning bylaw must be made stronger and enforced to protect the city’s natural spaces.
Pollinators are essential to our food security. Globally, 87 of 115 (75 per cent) of the leading food crops depend on pollinators. Wild bees and other wildlife pollinate at least 80 per cent of our food. Pollinators are struggling to survive. Their numbers are declining due to pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change.
Here are some simple things you can do to help save wild pollinators and protect our global food supply:
Rethink your yard — One of the main threats to wild pollinators is the loss of habitat. How much of your yard is covered by a hard surface (a pollinator desert)? How much is lawn (very low value to pollinators)? How much provides high quality habitat for pollinators?
Create more bee habitat by replacing your lawn with “bee turf” – a mix of low-growing flowers and turf grasses. It can be used just like a regular lawn for recreation. It resists damage due to drought, foot traffic, and dog urine. The University of Minnesota found that bee lawns attracted over 50 species of native bees.
Bergamot attracts many different pollinators throughout the summer.
Pollinators are in the news, as monarch butterflies have been added to the worldwide endangered species list. Colonies of honey bees are collapsing. The debate rages on about banning “neonic” pesticides that threaten bees and other pollinators.
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from flower to flower. It is critical for seed and fruit production. Some plants only need the wind or water to carry pollen. But many plants need bees, other insects, or other animals (e.g., bats, hummingbirds, lizards) to provide this essential service.
According to the Pollinator Partnership, “worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibres, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.”
Bees are the best-known pollinators. They fly from flower to flower, eating nectar for energy and collecting pollen to feed to their young.
Some bees have special pollen baskets on their back legs to carry pollen.
I have been composting for 35 years. I did not start composting to divert my kitchen waste from landfill sites or to fight climate change. I lived on the 14th floor of a high-rise apartment and wanted to reduce my trips to the nasty garbage chute at the end of the hall.
I enrolled as a volunteer Master Composter to learn the art and science of backyard composting. Participants had to set up a composter as part of the intensive 10-week course. We were also trained to be compost ambassadors.
Since I lived in an apartment, I set up a worm bin to compost with worms. I filled a recycling bin with newspaper bedding and added some red wiggler worms that would eat my garbage. The results were astounding. The worms reduced a pail of vegetable scraps to high-quality finished compost in about two weeks. And, there was no smell except very briefly when adding new food scraps.
Many gardeners, including my dad, use more conventional backyard composters for kitchen scraps. The high-nitrogen food scraps (greens) are composted together with high-carbon yard waste (browns). Managing the bin properly minimizes unpleasant odors.
Many gardeners, like Roy Kading (pictured) use traditional backyard bins to compost yard waste and food scraps.
Let’s face it. It’s embarrassing that the capital of Manitoba allows raw sewage to enter our rivers. The frequency is alarming. It happens over 1,200 times a year. The volume is staggering — an average of 9 billion litres per year. These events happen when too much water from rain, broken water pipes, or snowmelt enters our sewer system and treatment plants. They simply can’t handle a high volume of wastewater.
It will take unwavering political will, millions of dollars, and many years to fix this problem. It will cost an estimated $2.3 billion dollars to capture 85 per cent of Winnipeg’s sewer overflows by 2045. City council has budgeted $30 million per year to 2045. This leaves $1.61 billion (or $2,277/person based on a population of 705,000) still needed from other sources. Ideally, this would be split by the provincial and federal governments. Failing that, I would be happy to pay my share ($99/person/year or 27 cents/person/day) through an increase in my taxes or my water bill. We have benefitted from low taxes for decades. It is time to pay the piper so that this work is done by 2045.
In the meantime, here are some things we can do to reduce the number and size of these events:
• Reduce wastewater during rainstorms and snowmelt. Treatment plants would receive 12 million fewer litres of wastewater if every detached household (166,955) postponed doing laundry (71 litres per load). If every person (705,000) waited until after the rain to bathe (114 litres) or shower (94 litres), it would make room for 66 to 80 million litres of excess stormwater;
Ponds and rain gardens reduce sewer overflow events by holding back the rain.
As an advocate for urban greenspace, I have followed the fate of Winnipeg’s parks and green spaces since the mid-1990s. This includes John Blumberg Golf Course.
On Feb. 24, city council voted to remove John Blumberg Golf Course from the list of land that is “surplus to the city’s needs.” This was a momentous day for greenspace advocates. Two years ago, the sale of this golf course seemed inevitable. It had been set in motion in 2013 but the land was not put on the market until 2020. Then, in June of 2021 (as bids were being prepared), council amended Winnipeg’s key planning documents to include consideration of golf courses as nature reserves and green spaces. It also committed to increasing the amount of park land. By January of 2022, there was a concrete offer on the table from a potential buyer. The stage was set for a final debate: to sell or not to sell this 200-acre greenspace.
Delegates spoke passionately on both sides. The potential buyers explained the benefits of a housing proposal that would retain 38 acres of forest. Headingley residents reminded everyone that the land had been purchased as a legacy for the people of Winnipeg. Pam Lucenkiw and Ron Mazur from OURS-Winnipeg made the case for putting green space at the heart of urban planning as we enter the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
I encouraged people to see the course through the eyes of a birder and conservationist. I told them about a special bird I saw while golfing at John Blumberg. It was perched on a short tree on the fairway near a small stream. It was a loggerhead shrike — one of Canada’s most endangered birds.
John Blumberg Golf Course is critical habitat for endangered loggerhead shrikes (above), which once nested near the clubhouse.
Once a week, I lead a conversation class with adult newcomers to Manitoba to improve their English skills. We discuss many different topics. Manitoba weather is always popular — especially in winter. Many of my adult students have come to Canada from much warmer places without four distinct seasons. Before arriving in Winnipeg, they all heard stories about how cold it can get here. They arrive mentally prepared for the low temperatures and are eager to learn about best winter clothes to keep themselves warm as they experience winter. They are less prepared for winter’s beauty. This has been a particularly beautiful winter. We have had relatively short periods of intense cold with bright blue skies (perfect conditions for seeing sun dogs), “mini-blizzards,” and warm spells with fresh snow and hoar frost. I was curious if my students had acquired an appreciation for winter since their arrival. I asked them to tell us one thing that they like about winter. We spent the whole class talking about winter through a newcomer’s eyes. Here is some of what they shared:• “I love watching the big, white snowflakes as they fall.” (A newcomer from Colombia);• “Everything looks so white, clean, and peaceful.” (Morocco);• “I like the way the snow piles up on trees and signs — creating tall, white ‘hats’ on everything.” (Ecuador);• “I love the holiday decorations.” (Mexico) ;• “I enjoy watching my sons play in the snow .”(Colombia);• “The air smells so fresh it makes you feel alive.” (Colombia);• “There are so many shades of white (Ecuador);• I like: “Skating at the Forks.” (Ecuador); “Skiing at the Nordic Centre.” (Ukraine); and “Tobogganing.” (Russia);• “There are no mosquitos.” (Nicaragua);• “I like being indoors with a hot coffee.” (India);• “I enjoy watching the big white rabbits with black ears race across the fields.” (Kazakhstan);To their list, I add frost-covered trees sparkling in the sun, snow squeaking underfoot on really cold days, frost patterns on windows, and sun dogs. Much beauty awaits those who brave Canada’s cold winter temperatures. Perhaps no one knows this better than Mike Grandmaison. Mike is a renowned Winnipeg photographer who specializes in capturing the beauty of Canadian landscapes in all seasons. He says he has spent a lot of time outside this winter. We end our class by browsing through Mike’s photo on-line galleries (www.grandmaisonphotography.com) featuring beautiful images of frost, hoarfrost, ice, pillars, snow, storms, polar bears, and, of course — sun dogs. Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.
Once a week, I lead a conversation class with adult newcomers to Manitoba to improve their English skills. We discuss many different topics. Manitoba weather is always popular — especially in winter. Many of my adult students have come to Canada from much warmer places without four distinct seasons.
Before arriving in Winnipeg, they all heard stories about how cold it can get here. They arrive mentally prepared for the low temperatures and are eager to learn about best winter clothes to keep themselves warm as they experience winter.
Photo by Mike Grandmaison
Sun dogs – also called parhelia – and 22 degree halo (circle around the sun) in Winnipeg’s Southdale neighbourhood.
Over the years, I have had several encounters with butterflies that revealed their delicate beauty, adaptability and toughness. My first memorable encounter was while eating a nectarine on the front steps of my house. A butterfly landed on my hand, which was dripping with juice. I watched in fascination as the butterfly’s long tongue unfurled like one of those party toys that you blow into. The butterfly soaked its delicate tongue in juice before curling it back to its mouth. Transfixed by its trust in me, I did not ponder how this fragile creature survives our winters.My second encounter was when I worked at the Nutimik Museum. A movement caught my eye as I swept the front walk on a rainy morning. The wind had blown a large butterfly into a puddle. One wing was trapped by the surface tension. The other was waving in the wind. I placed my finger so it could grab me with its feet and I pulled it off the water. It stayed on my finger long after its wing was dry. I gently moved it onto my name tag on my shirt so I could continue to work. I forgot about it until the first visitors arrived near lunch. One visitor commented on my realistic brooch, reached out a hand, and was surprised when the butterfly moved in alarm. After the visitors left, I stepped outside, thanked the butterfly for its company, and it flew away. Again, I did not think about where this trusting creature would spend the following winter.So, where do butterflies go each winter? Monarch butterflies are renowned for their amazing migration from Manitoba to Mexico, where they winter as adults in mountain forests. But most Manitoba butterflies do not migrate. They must lay eggs or produce caterpillars that can survive our freezing temperatures. One familiar example of this (from a related group) is the tiger moth that overwinters as the woolly bear.One butterfly, the mourning cloak, survives Canada’s frigid winters as an adult. I discovered this in a forest during a February melt. To my surprise, I found a mourning cloak basking in the sun on a rotting log that peeked out from the snow. As the sun sank, the butterfly folded its fragile wings above its body and carefully wiggled its way into an impossibly-narrow crevice in the rotting wood. Butterflies — remarkably delicate and tough. Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.
Over the years, I have had several encounters with butterflies that revealed their delicate beauty, adaptability and toughness.
My first memorable encounter was while eating a nectarine on the front steps of my house. A butterfly landed on my hand, which was dripping with juice. I watched in fascination as the butterfly’s long tongue unfurled like one of those party toys that you blow into. The butterfly soaked its delicate tongue in juice before curling it back to its mouth. Transfixed by its trust in me, I did not ponder how this fragile creature survives our winters.
My second encounter was when I worked at the Nutimik Museum. A movement caught my eye as I swept the front walk on a rainy morning. The wind had blown a large butterfly into a puddle. One wing was trapped by the surface tension. The other was waving in the wind. I placed my finger so it could grab me with its feet and I pulled it off the water. It stayed on my finger long after its wing was dry. I gently moved it onto my name tag on my shirt so I could continue to work. I forgot about it until the first visitors arrived near lunch. One visitor commented on my realistic brooch, reached out a hand, and was surprised when the butterfly moved in alarm. After the visitors left, I stepped outside, thanked the butterfly for its company, and it flew away. Again, I did not think about where this trusting creature would spend the following winter.
Photo by Michele Kading
A mourning cloak butterfly collects sap. Its tongue extends and retracts like a party toy to collect nectar or tree sap.
As I watched the news about the devastating tornado in the United States, I silently thanked my grade school teachers and parents. They gave me knowledge and skills to protect myself from many dangers I would face in life.
Schools played a huge role in keeping every child safe. The school nurse gave us vaccines. Teachers taught us to stay safe on roads; to always walk on the shoulder facing traffic. To use hand signals when riding our bikes on the streets. They even taught us what to do in a tornado. Visiting a small town after a tornado with my family gave me a healthy respect for this powerful force of nature. I learned to read the prairie sky for warnings and to trust my instincts when I feel danger in the air.
On Aug. 20, 2006, I saw the signs. It was a Sunday afternoon. I was on my deck facing north. The sky had a yellowish-brown cast. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Clouds were moving fast from west to east. Then I saw it, a small funnel extending down from a dark cloud. I snapped a few pictures as I judged its distance and direction — ready to take cover if needed. My neighbours were unaware of the danger as they flipped burgers and enjoyed a backyard pool party.
The next day, newspapers reported that Winnipeg had narrowly missed a tornado. It skirted just north of my house — flipping over small planes at the St. Andrews airport. Canada’s first-ever F5 tornado touched down the next year just 30 kilometres west in Elie, Man.
Photo by Michele Kading
One of many funnel clouds that threatened Winnipeg on Aug. 20, 2006.
It’s that time of year again. Birders are gearing up for the annual Christmas Bird Count. According to Birds Canada, this is North America’s longest running citizen science project. Christmas Bird Counts began in 1900. They are now conducted in 2,000 localities in the Western hemisphere, including Winnipeg.
Each count area is a circle with a 15-mile diameter that stays the same from year to year. The Winnipeg count is centred near Polo Park (at Portage Avenue and St. James Street). The urban Seine River, north of Creek Bend Road, falls within the Winnipeg count area. Counts must take place on a single day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. The Winnipeg count will be Dec.19.
Be sure to fill your bird feeders. Birders find it frustrating to see empty bird feeders on count day. There is nothing worse — except maybe explaining what they are doing to the police:
“No officer, we are not casing the neighbourhood. We are just counting winter birds.”
Look for hawks and other birds on poles and treetops.
My family, friends, and colleagues often send me photos of plants or animals. They found something cool and want to know more. What is it called? Have you seen one before? Is it unusual? As a naturalist, I love answering these questions. But, I also encourage everyone to share their sightings on iNaturalist.
iNaturalist is an easy-to-use app and website for general nature observations. It can be used for all species of plants, animals, and fungi. It is a network of observers, naturalists, and scientists around the world. Just take a picture of the species that you found — at home or on vacation. If you use your cell phone with location services turned on, the photo will be geo-tagged. Upload the photo to iNaturalist and it will automatically show the location on a map.
You can identify the species if you know its name. Or, you can ask for suggestions. The app will show you photos of species that look similar, or were seen nearby. Submit the sighting with your best guess of its name. Other people in the iNaturalist community will confirm your ID or suggest other possibilities.
iNaturalist is one example of crowdsourcing to obtain data from large numbers of people via the Internet or an app. When volunteers collect data that is useful to scientists, it is called citizen science.
Photo by Michelle Kading
Apps such as iNaturalist can be used to share your nature observations and photos with others – including researchers.
This summer, I had a visit from two of Winnipeg’s friendly bylaw officers. They had received a complaint about my yard. It’s not a traditional yard. It’s a nature-scape. In the mid-1990s, I killed the sod and planted native grasses and wildflowers. As a pioneer in ‘naturescaping,’ I soon learned that it is encouraged by naturalist services – but not by bylaw enforcement.
Native prairie grasses grow taller than the six-inch maximum allowed for lawns. This is problematic for bylaw officers. They could see that my yard is not an unmown lawn. It is a carefully-tended wildflower garden. It is a haven for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. It just looks a bit . . . unkempt. So, every few years, someone complains.
While Winnipeg struggles to integrate non-traditional yards into the urban landscape, it is successfully bringing prairie to public greenspaces. One of the newest examples is near John Bruce Road East. Head north on Louis Riel Senior Trail to visit the site. Part of the new prairie is nestled beside the Seine River forest west of the trail. The rest overlooks a retention pond to the east.
Save Our Seine initiated this prairie restoration as a part of its greenspace enhancement project. A grant from the Conservation Trust attracted matching money - including a generous grant from Coun. Brian Mayes for prairie restoration. Native Plant Solutions, a leader in this field, was chosen for the project.
Supplied photo by Native Plant Solutions
Save Our Seine’s prairie restoration project in Royalwood.
Aug. 15 marked the return of Woody-Mhitik to the forest floor. The giant tree spirit was created by Walter Mirosh and Robert Leclair in 2004 to help save a valuable forest in St. Vital.
Woody-Mhitik did raise public awareness of the imminent threat to the forest and Bois-des-Esprits was ultimately saved. This summer, city council adopted a plan that will protect parks, golf courses, and green spaces from development. It even set a target to add 1,000 acres of green space by 2045. While the work that Woody-Mhitik inspired is not done, there is hope that another forest south of the perimeter could be added to the Seine River Greenway — perhaps as Winnipeg’s first national park.
As we contemplate a possible successor to Woody-Mhitik, a new threat has emerged. This summer, a prolonged drought robbed the river its life-blood for two months. Three weeks after the new dock was unveiled at John Bruce Park on June 17, the river dropped so low that it could not be used. The Seine had stopped flowing. It became a series of stagnant pools held in place by beaver dams and rocky riffles.
People took note of the impact the drought had on the river. They took pictures of the dry riverbed, algae blooms, and plants taking over exposed mud flats. Kids created makeshift rock trails to walk across the river. People reported dead fish in stinky pools. Ducks were getting sick. On July 15, helicopters sprayed larvicide on the stagnant pools to prevent the emergence of mosquitoes that could spread West Nile virus. The link between the health of the river and the health of people was never clearer.
Woody-Mhitik, the tree spirit, raised public awareness to protect Bois-des-Esprits.
Less than a week after city council voted to protect and expand Winnipeg’s green spaces, I visited one of Winnipeg’s finest - Bois-des-Esprits. This beautiful forest has become a favourite place for many people to connect with nature during COVID-19. The nature park can be enjoyed by foot, bike, or paddle.
I was there to check out a new interpretive node. The node is a small seating area in the forest, just a short walk north from the Royalwood Bridge. A carving by Murray Watson marks the entrance to the node along the upper trail.
Planned before COVID-19, the node was envisioned as a space for an interpreter to pull a small group off the main trail to share information about the Seine River. Between tours, the node provides a scenic spot for people to relax overlooking the Seine River.
Built by B&B Landscape, the node has three natural wooden benches plus several small groups of stump stools that sprawl casually down the riverbank between the upper and lower trails. Bark mulch provides an attractive finishing touch. The node was designed by Scatliff+Miller+Murray. It is easily accessible to people with limited mobility from the upper trail. The design allows for physical distancing between smaller groups.
Photo by Michele Kading
A new scenic overlook in Bois-des-Esprits offers a space to gather, reflect, and connect.
Word is quickly spreading that Winnipeg’s first universal dock is now open at John Bruce Park.
The dock was custom-designed by Scatliff+Miller+Murray (SMM) and the Save Our Seine design team led by Marc St. Laurent. The team used universal design principles to create a dock that works for people with a wide range of abilities. A full-scale prototype was built by the team and tested by local paralympian Colin Mathieson.
The dock’s universal design makes it easier for everyone to access and enjoy the beauty of the Seine River. Paddlers can enter their canoes or kayaks on solid ground and slide down a chute into the river - without even getting their feet wet. This is ideal for young families, seniors, and novice paddlers.
Unlike most docks, this one is built into the riverbank. It will not interfere with the flow of the river and it will remain usable as the water level rises and falls.
Supplied photo by Isabelle Borta
Launching canoes and kayaks into the Seine River is made easier by a new universal dock.
In 2017, Winnipeg launched a review of its plan for the future of the city. Residents were invited to share their vision for our city in a process called SpeakUp Winnipeg. I was one of many who participated. Four years later, Winnipeg is poised to approve a new plan. The public is invited to speak up one last time at a public hearing on Thursday, May 13.
For me, OurWinnipeg 2045 (and Complete Communities 2.0) misses the mark. With the public hearing looming, I thought this would be a good time to share my personal vision for a green Winnipeg.
My Winnipeg will have a comprehensive network of parks to meet the needs of residents, attract tourists, and stimulate economic development. The city will have an abundance of nature parks, recreation parks, and greenways. The city will protect the greenspaces that we have. It will acquire and create new parks to keep pace with population growth. All residents will have easy access to greenspaces. Equity will be achieved by adding greenspaces to areas that are deserts – not by reducing greenspaces elsewhere. Golf courses will not be re-imagined for housing development.
My Winnipeg will actively acquire, protect, and restore natural habitats. Urban forests, wetlands, rivers, prairies, and retention ponds will serve as habitat for wildlife and places for people to connect with nature. The city will acknowledge that nature belongs to everyone. City policies will put community interests above the desires of individual landowners.
Photo by Michele Kading
The city’s new plan for the future of the city, OurWinnipeg 2045, does not make provisions for preservation and expansion of greenspace and green initiatives.
Hats off to Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.
When the province started public consultations on the Highway 100 project, Save Our Seine was invited to stakeholder meetings. Often these meetings are frustrating for stakeholders who raise concerns that are deemed to be out of the scope of the project. This time was different.
MIT listened to the concerns expressed by SOS and agreed to make meaningful changes. When the project reaches the crossing at the Seine River, the province will replace the small culvert with one that is large enough to accommodate riverside trails. In future, people will be able to walk or bike under the busy highway that separates St. Vital and St. Norbert.
If the future culvert is carefully designed, deer and other wildlife will also use the tunnel. The Seine River is a hotspot for deer moving across Highway 100. Many have been killed by fast-moving vehicles. Nova Scotia has already built similar wildlife tunnels and is monitoring their use by wildlife.
The new Aimes Road bridge crossing includes a “notch” to launch canoes from the west bank.
A few weeks ago, sewage spilled onto the Assiniboine River. It ruined a community skating rink. The incident was a stark reminder that Winnipeg’s sewer system is outdated.
For large numbers of people to live together, cities need systems to handle power, water, transportation, communication, and waste. Historically, these systems were built with concrete and steel. Roads, bridges, power lines, cell towers, and sewer pipes are all part of a city’s grey infrastructure.
Grey infrastructure is expensive. Concrete and steel eventually fail and they must be replaced. Winnipeg is outgrowing its aging infrastructure. Much of the city is served by an old combined sewer system. Separating sewer pipes from stormwater pipes will be expensive and unsustainable.
Winnipeg has a huge infrastructure deficit. It will cost $6.9 billion to fix old infrastructure and build new infrastructure to meet future needs. How this will be done is laid out in a variety of planning documents. Will we continue to use grey infrastructure? Or, will we embrace green solutions?
Winnipeg is considering making retention ponds multi-functional: stormwater
City planners recently tabled OurWinnipeg 2045 and Complete Communities 2.0 with city council. These two documents will guide development in Winnipeg for the next decade or more.
Public consultation on the plan began in 2017. Save Our Seine and OURS-Winnipeg were excited to participate in the process. Together, we organized a forum to gather feedback and ideas from greenspace advocates from across the city. Approximately 60 people from grassroots groups attended the Greenspaces Matter forum on Nov. 23, 2017.
The participants had a lot in common. They were passionate about urban forests, prairie, rivers, and wetlands in their neighbourhoods. They had attended open houses held by developers. They had summoned the courage to speak up at formal public hearings. They all exhibited similar battle scars - frustration, disappointment, and cynicism.
Such is the nature of public consultation. Too often, participants feel like open houses and stakeholder meetings are a waste of time. Developers are required to consult with the public and to submit reports detailing their consultation efforts. Check. They are not required to listen or address the concerns that are raised.
Photo by Roger Froebe
Greenspaces add to the quality of life in Winnipeg.
The city recently advised people to stay off all waterways in Winnipeg. This warning came shortly after a teenager fell through thin ice near John Bruce Park.
When media outlets reported that the opening of the River Trail would be delayed due to warm weather, I was alarmed to hear that residents had created their own trail on the Assiniboine River. I feared for their safety. Large, deep rivers like the Assiniboine and Red are particularly dangerous during freeze-up and spring thaw. That said, anyone who watched It’s a Wonderful Life over the holidays knows that even tobogganing onto a small pond has inherent risks.
Keeping people off waterways in winter is easier said than done. Rivers, ponds, and wetlands are magnets for winter recreation. They offer many opportunities for walking, running, cycling, photography, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, skating, ice fishing, and simply exploring.
I took a walk last week to see if the safety warnings were keeping people off of the Seine River.
Open water near the river bank indicates a stormwater outfall has undermined the ice near this bank.
In recent weeks, two hot topics — holiday decorations and deer-feeding — have sparked interest in local social media. Many people have reached out to Save Our Seine to voice their opinions and concerns.
Neither of these human activities is new but both are on the rise this year, owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
More people than ever are exploring the Seine River Greenway, some for the first time. More people means more drink containers littering the trails and more trampling. Parts of the Louis Riel Senior and South Trails are lined with holiday decorations. Bois-des-Ésprits has become a hub of deer-feeding activity.
Opinions on the holiday decorations vary. Nature purists prefer the unadorned, bleak beauty of winter. Other trail users are cheered by these unexpected splashes of bright colour in an otherwise grey landscape.
Photo by Michele Kading
Hand-feeding deer can harm the deer and put people at risk of injury.
Save Our Seine does not own any land. We rely on co-operation from all landowners along the river to conduct our stewardship programs.
The main landowner on the Seine River is the City of Winnipeg. In 2000, it owned approximately 44 per cent of the property along the river. Today, it owns even more.
The amount of city-owned land varies in each reach of the river:
• Red River to Provencher Boulevard —Over 90 per cent;
Photo by Michele Kading
The City of Winnipeg has an easement allowing the Gabrielle-Roy Trail to cross Agi-Westeel land.
A few weeks ago, I was asked if Winnipeg should have a tree bylaw to protect its urban forest. For me, the answer is not clear.
The majority of the land in Winnipeg is private property (65 per cent). Only about 15 per cent is city-owned. The remaining 20 per cent is occupied by rivers and streets. An effective tree bylaw must apply to trees on public and private land. It has to apply to isolated trees growing in boulevards, private yards, and public parks. It must protect the city’s remaining forest regardless of land ownership. And therein lies the rub.
Some people contend that owners have the right to do what they want with their property without limitation. People in this camp say the city can’t prevent landowners from removing trees on their own property.
Others contend that private property affects other people including those with adjacent property rights and those without property rights. Emotions run high when owners cut down mature trees to make room for infill development. Hundreds of people pack local community centres when a forest is under threat. This supports the argument that owner’s rights can be, and should be, limited by the rights of others.
Photo by Michele Kading
Diseased elm trees marked for removal in Kavanagh Park.
Last week, I explored the Kavanagh Park forest for the first time. As I walked through this small urban forest nestled in the bend of the Seine River, I was struck by its peacefulness.
But appearances can be deceiving. We often don’t notice the life and death struggles between plants. The native trees in the Kavanagh Forest are losing a silent battle against European buckthorn.
Buckthorn was introduced into gardens in North America over a century ago. It escaped into the wild. Today, buckthorn is a major threat to native forests along the Seine River and elsewhere.
European buckthorn is a fierce competitor. It leafs out early in the spring and creates a dense shade that native species can’t survive. It changes the soil in ways that are not fully understood. Some research suggests that its leaves, seeds, or roots produce chemicals that prevent the growth of native trees and shrubs.
The “Buckthorn Baggie” technique is being used to kill European buckthorn in Kavanagh Park.