West Kildonan duo naturalizes rare ecosystem


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/06/2022 (284 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


A wet meadow in Riverbend is home to a natural history that defies its suburban enclave. Frog Plain Park, located along present-day Frog Plain Way, is the remainder of what was once a vast area of damp vegetation. Today, it still serves as a breeding ground for the boreal chorus frog — Manitoba’s smallest frog species.

Grade 11 West Kildonan Collegiate students Breanna D’Agruma, 17, and Rae Baxter, 16, saw an opportunity to help restore a slice of this land to what it likely looked like hundreds of years ago.

On June 9, D’Agruma and Baxter led a group of about 30 Grade 7 students from Edmund Partridge Community School on a mission to plant dozens of native plants on the west edge of Frog Plain Park (this corner is currently grassed over).

“We heard there were a lot of invasive species and weeds and a whack of native species in the area,” D’Agruma said, adding that she and Baxter chose to involve Grade 7 students in the project to inspire them to pursue environmental studies in high school.

D’Agruma and Baxter have undertaken this project — titled The Story of Frog Plain — for the Caring for Our Watersheds: Manitoba competition. Caring for Our Watersheds is a Canadian non-profit that supports student-led environmental solutions.

The students learned of the competition through an assignment for their West Kildonan Collegiate environmental studies class.

The duo earned fifth place out of Manitoba’s top 10 student projects. In all, Caring for Our Watersheds reviewed 250 project proposals. The finalists were invited to Oak Hammock Marsh to celebrate their wins.

The fifth-place honour earned D’Agruma and Baxter funds to put their project in action and $600 for personal use.

D’Agruma and Baxter led a planting tutorial for the students at Frog Plain Park. Afterward, each student had the chance to plant one or more native species. The varieties the duo chose, under the guidance of local writer and wetlands educator Michele Kading, included narrow-leaf sunflower, milkweed, wild bergamot and purple prairie clover.

The students gained permission from the City of Winnipeg to undertake the work. The girls are keeping their fingers crossed that the plants will survive. They say the city has opted to apply pesticides to the field this year in lieu of a controlled burn due to unseasonable dampness.

“We hope to see the flowers bloom,” Baxter said.

The plants came from Aki Centre, a local Indigenous land-based education group. D’Agruma and Baxter worked with Alexis Nazeravich, the program co-ordinator at Aki Centre, to secure the donation.

D’Agruma and Baxter plan to participate in the Caring for Our Watersheds competition next year. They may embark on a followup project to The Story of Frog Plain, which would entail tracking the progress of the native species they reintroduced to the park.

“We’re very passionate about climate change and caring for our planet because it’s the only planet we have,” D’Agruma said.

Katlyn Streilein

Katlyn Streilein
Community Journalist

Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.

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