Sprucing up Assiniboine Forest
Many years ago – before I knew Charleswood existed – I was visiting a friend who lived near the Perimeter. I hadn’t driven that far west on Grant Avenue before so I was shocked to find myself driving through what appeared to be a forest. Who knew that 35 years later I would make many visits to that same forest — the largest urban nature forest in Canada.
Consisting of 700 acres, bounded on the north by Roblin Boulevard, Shaftesbury Boulevard to the east, Chalfont Road on the west and Wilkes Avenue to the south, Assiniboine Forest is bisected by Grant Avenue into two parcels – 200 acres to the north 500 acres to the south. It is linked with Harte Trail, Fort Whyte and Assiniboine Park.
A blend of open meadows, wetland areas, ponds and old forest growth, Assiniboine Forest’s 10 kilometres of maintained trails are heavily used year-round by pedestrians and cyclists — 170,000 people visit every year. Existing trails — paved, hard-packed, crushed limestone and wood chips — are marked on signage at the entrances to the forest, and wayfinding signage identifies barrier-free trails, forest trails and boardwalk trails.
Enhancements to the trails, signage and more are now being planned.
Custodian of Assiniboine Forest since 1990, the Rotary Club of Winnipeg-Charleswood has raised funds and obtained grants valued at $600,000 to support Assiniboine Forest projects, according to Mike Dudar, a member of the club’s forest committee. In a presentation to the Charleswood Historical Society, Dudar reviewed projects that have been completed, such as municipal waste disposal site cleanup and restoration, refurbishment of the Eve Werner Pond boardwalk, thistle control and seasonal public washrooms.
He then introduced the Assiniboine Forest Enhancement and Implementation plan, which includes: a new entrance-roadway sign with colours that mirror trail marking (to be placed at Chalfont and Grant); a new front entrance-way interpretative sign that will provide information on trees, plants and animals which inhabit the forest as well as Indigenous history; and new wayfinding signage to identify current location and trails. All these improvements are to be completed by spring 2023.
Enhancements to be completed by 2024-25 include new, accessible, hard-packed crushed stone path extension to Sagimay Trail, upgrading some existing mud and grass trails with wood chips, and cross-country ski trails.
Forest entry enhancements include an environmentally friendly, hard-packed crushed stone parking area off Shaftsbury Boulevard, with contained drainage and integrated tree planting,
All projects are subject to funding, Dudar said, noting that the parking lot will take the longest to complete.
Estimated cost of the forest enhancement initiatives is $600,000-$800,000. Charleswood Rotary Club will be doing public consultations and pursuing partnerships to help raise funds, as well as looking to obtain grants over the next 15 years to support the proposed enhancement projects.
To donate, visit www.fundourforest.org. If you can’t donate, volunteer sweat equity is an option.
Charleswood community correspondent
Donna Minkus is a community correspondent for Charleswood.