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Enhancing our Shorelines Together

Posted on May 28, 2019

FortWhyte Alive’s lake edges are quietly undergoing a magical transformation, thanks to a bit of human effort and some amazing native plants.

On Saturday, May 4, volunteers and members of the public joined in to enhance and stabilize shoreline along FortWhyte Alive’s Muir Lake. Our team followed a bioengineering method commonly used in the UK, involving the use of “soft” materials such as biodegradable coir logs and live willows, guided by Chris Randall, a Project Manager with Seine Rat River Conservation District.

Project Background and History

FortWhyte’s lakes were excavated during Canada Cement clay mining operations, starting in 1911. Bulldozers and other machinery left steep shorelines, and a damaged landscape.

Floodwater topped up the pits to form lakes, and in 1966, a small group of nature-lovers established a new private, non-profit organization which would grow up to be FortWhyte Alive.

FortWhyte’s shorelines have grown to host a variety of grasses and perennials, and some shrubs. The steep banks near the lakes continue to be prone to slumping and erosion.

Our project goal is to reduce shoreline erosion while providing songbird habitat and a food source for native pollinating insects.

Amazing Willow

Willows (Salix spp.) are known as nature’s rebar – they quickly form massive root systems to hold soil together. Willows already grow abundantly in FortWhyte’s wetland areas and were harvested onsite.

Willows produce a rooting hormone at the growing tips of branches, and when placed in water, will produce adventitious roots.

Shoreline Bioengineers

In preparation for our project, over 2,000 live willow stems were clipped and rooted in buckets of water.

We installed coir (coconut fibre) logs and willow bundles in the water, using wood stakes for stability.

Coir erosion control blanket was rolled out underneath to hold the additional soil.

New soil and last year’s flax bales added to fill in the space along the steep shoreline.

Erosion control blanket was wrapped over to bundle the soil.

Rooted willows were planted through the blanket.

Thicker willow stems will be transplanted and additional plants will be introduced throughout the coming season to ensure they take root.

We would like extend a big thank you to the group of amazing volunteers who helped out with this project, both in preparation by gathering willows, and moving materials to the site, as well as doing the hard work of moving soil and wading in the lake. You can now watch your efforts grow over time!

This project is part of FortWhyte Alive’s Model Watershed Project and funded by RBC Foundation.