As an advocate for urban greenspace, I have followed the fate of Winnipegs 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 citys 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 Winnipegs 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 Canadas most endangered birds.
Shrikes are unique songbirds. They are nicknamed butcher birds because they catch small mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, or reptiles. Lacking talons, they kill their prey with their bills and impale them on thorns or barbed wire to pick them apart.
At the time of my sighting, the population in the Winnipeg region was hanging on by a thread. There were only a handful of active nests – including one at Blumberg.
I urged council to consider the conservation perspective. Developing this land would contribute to the extinction of an endangered species. Retaining this critical habitat for loggerheads opens the door to a possible recovery. Thanks to city council, John Blumberg will remain open for future birdies.
St. Vital community correspondent
Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.