Friday, September 6, 2013

Island trees taking root

Balsam Poplar saplings have been planted to supplement the number of natural seedlings that won't survive the winter.
When the June flood submerged Prince’s Island Park, one of Calgary’s most frequented treasures was buried beneath a mass of silt, fallen trees and debris. Hundreds of volunteers, City of Calgary staff, and contractors quickly came together to clean up for The Calgary Folk Music Festival, just one of many heart-warming stories of Calgarians’ community spirit and determination.

As summer begins to fade, the only lingering sign of the disaster is a length of blue metal fencing blocking off a section of the north bank where a walking trail used to exist.  The only sign that is, until you look more closely.

George Stalker points out
a new shoot at Prince’s Island Park that is
growing from a broken branch.
“There’s a lot of really exciting new growth happening here,” says George Stalker, a natural areas project coordinator with The City of Calgary Parks. “We’ve fenced it off to protect new seedlings from being damaged.”

The see-through fencing gives park visitors a special opportunity to watch the natural regeneration, George explains.  Silt and downed trees strewn throughout the park were cleared and moved to the north side to replicate the conditions of a natural environment.  Hundreds of surviving balsam poplar seeds – released as a result of the flood – are busy rooting. Not all will survive the winter, so Parks brought in several hundred saplings which were planted by volunteers in mid August.

Wild rose bushes have also been planted, and other flora species will be added to create a vibrant natural area.

“People love natural areas because they can really relax,” George says.  “It’s something you experience through your senses of smell, sight and hearing.  Seeing a new natural area develop is an exciting opportunity.”

Another benefit of the new trees on the island’s edge is the protection they will provide in future floods. Trees serve as a filter to small bits of debris, and prevent large debris from getting to groomed areas and damaging picnic tables, fences and other built infrastructure.

“We really appreciate people staying out of the fenced areas to give the new roots and shoots a chance to survive,” George says.  “We’ve done our part; now we just have to stay out of the way to let nature takes its course.”

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