Pictured L-R Russel Goossen, Laryassa Kurjewicz, Tracy Master
A citizen’s urgent desire to take an environmental stand and a vision that leads the City of Selkirk to decisions that protect our natural surroundings has turned a former eye-sore into a pollinator park that will benefit people as well as the birds and the bees and the butterflies too.
Selkirk council worked diligently to remove the Lord Selkirk II from it’s 20-year-plus final resting ground in Selkirk Park four years ago, completing what was Phase 1 of a plan to restore the inlet off the Red River to a natural state.
Phase 2 involved remediation of the area and now Phase 3 is the volunteer-driven establishment of a pollinator park, where natural vegetation will be a beacon to birds, bees and butterflies.
It was a bit of synergy that resulted in Selkirk resident Corinna Rach contacting Mayor Larry Johannson about tackling the shoreline adjacent to where the old ship had sat for so many years. Rach was taking environmental studies at the University of Winnipeg and needed to volunteer on an environmental project to get her credit.
Her passion for a healthy environment made it easy for her to love the idea of creating a pollinator park, but she admits now that the project is done, she really didn’t know how receptive the city would be.
“I did a project in environmental studies and I ended up writing Mayor Larry Johansson, I never thought I was even going to be answered,” Rach laughed.
“But I got a letter back and he sent me to (Director of Culture, Recreation and Green Transportation) Chris Carruthers…and we found that would be the best spot (to put a pollinator park).”
Johannson said Rach and her group of volunteers, who worked for two weeks planting dozens of native Manitoba plants and grasses at the inlet, are a wonderful example of private citizens taking ownership of their community.
“I think Corinna and all those who helped her transform this space deserve a great big round of applause. The work they’ve done there is phenomenal and as the years go by it’s only going to get better,” Johannson said.
“As mayor, and I know all the councillors and staff at the city feel the same way, I’m just blown away by their initiative and their passion. It shows that people in Selkirk care about their community, they have pride in the city and they care about the environment. I’m so glad she reached out to us, and now with the final product that everyone can enjoy, I couldn’t be happier.”
Ruth Rolfe, the city’s Manager of Parks and Recreational Facilities, said the city purchased all the plants for Rach and the volunteers to plant and assisted wherever possible.
“They’re all Manitoba species and they’re all plants that would naturally grow there, so we’re trying to impregnate the area with the species that could have grown there,” Rolfe said.
“A lot of Manitoba species are starting to become extinct, so we’re doing our part to combat that.”
Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol said the city’s Strategic Plan calls for the city to develop its natural features and outdoor spaces, to promote environmental stewardship and to help citizens make good choices. Turning an unused spot into one that is beneficial to people and the environment, is a win-win.
“It’s exciting because the intention was always to naturalize the space, turn it back to what it could have been originally,” Nicol said.
“It’ll be a place where people can go and it’s more reflective. It’s not going to have equipment for people to play on or anything, it’s intended for activities like bringing your lunch down and enjoying some quiet space and enjoying nature. But the primary purpose is to re-naturalize that space and provide a space for pollinators.”
As part of the city’s Park’s Strategy there’s been a move towards naturalizing parks, which is good for the environment, and also financially responsible because naturalized spaces require less man hours to maintain as they require little maintenance.
Rach said returning spaces to their natural habitat is crucial to the survival of countless Manitoba plants as well as bees, birds and butterflies, which makes the transformation of the inlet all the more important.
According to Rach, only 1/20th of one per cent of Tall Prairie Grass remains in Manitoba, making ours one of the first endangered ecosystem in North America. It’s the reason bees, butterflies and birds are struggling to survive. It’s a sad state of affairs, she said, but one that can be corrected by people planting native plants.
“If you plant them, they will come, they just need the food,” Rach said.
You can see the pollinator park by entering Selkirk Park through the north park entrance.
List of Manitoba wildflowers and prairie grasses planted at the Selkirk Park inlet:
Big Bluestem Grass
Flat Top Goldenrod
Narrow Leaf Sunflower New England Aster Obedient Plant
Sweet Flag Grass
Tall Manna Grass
Wild Black Currant
Volunteers who helped on the project:
Selkirk Steelers executive board members: