There's always something new to discover at FortWhyte Alive.
Volunteers from all walks of life are the lifeblood of FortWhyte Alive.
Because of this community of changemakers, FortWhyte Alive boasts one of the most connected and committed teams of volunteers in the province.
Volunteers are the ones on the ground, cultivating relationships with nature and making a difference in real time. You make the magic happen, FortWhyte Alive volunteers!
Every spring, we have the pleasure of celebrating our most dedicated volunteers at our annual Volunteer Spirit Breakfast. It's a time to gather, share a meal, and recognize the thousands of hours our team of tireless volunteers invests into FortWhyte each season.
A special thank you and congratulations to the 38 volunteers who gave over 100 hours of their time this past year. Wow!
From all of us, thank you!
We'd also like to extend our heartfelt thanks to our longstanding volunteer program sponsor, Lafarge Canada.
Head to fortwhyte.org/volunteering to learn more.
FortWhyte Alive’s lake edges are quietly undergoing a magical transformation, thanks to a bit of human effort and some amazing native plants.
FortWhyte Alive is a 660-acre space for humans to connect with nature. We are located in southwest Winnipeg and home to 5 lakes, many wetlands, aspen forests, grassland areas, and trails and facilities which are open year-round.
A close look into FortWhyte’s history shows an industrial past which damaged the land. The 5 lakes were excavated during Canada Cement’s clay mining operations in the area, starting in 1911. Bulldozers and other machinery left steep shorelines and a barren landscape.
As floodwater topped up the pits to form lakes, one by one, the 5 clay pits were rendered obsolete. Fish were stocked, waterfowl were released, and in 1966, a small group of nature-lovers established a new private, nonprofit organization which would grow up to be FortWhyte Alive.
Today, though FortWhyte’s shorelines host a variety of grasses and perennials, the steep banks continue to be prone to slumping and erosion, having a negative impact on lake water quality and wildlife habitat value. To combat this problem, FortWhyte has been gathering groups of volunteers to help improve our shorelines.
Expert advice from Manitoba Conservation Districts Association has us using native willows (Salix spp.), which quickly grow massive root systems to hold soil together. Willows are amazing shrubs, which already grow abundantly on FortWhyte’s property.
Starting willows for planting is almost a magical process. A rooting hormone called indolebutyric acid produced at the growing tips of branches means that clipped willow stems, when placed in a bucket of water, will produce adventitious roots. Willow water can even induce rooting in other shrubs, such as dogwood.
Our willow clipping crew meets up and heads out in advance to clip hundreds of stems for shoreline restoration sessions. We take early spring cuttings, trimmed before air temperatures rise above an average of 5 Celsius, or we cut in fall after leaf drop. Differently sized clippings have been used, from small stems 30 centimetres long and about the diameter of a pencil, or up to 1 metre lengths about 5 centimetres in diameter. Stems are soaked in water for 14 days or more. On planting day, we push or hammer the stems into the ground near water as deep as possible, so only about a thumb length appears above the soil surface.
Water is important for willows, so rainfall and proximity to the water’s edge are considered. Planting in spring can result in better success in a drier area. It’s really one big experiment! With these instructions, why not try to harness this botanical magic and plant your own willows on a shoreline in your own backyard or at the cottage? You’ll protect your property from erosion, and help support a healthy environment.
Interested in being involved in shoreline restoration at FortWhyte Alive? Join FortWhyte Alive and Seine-Rat River Conservation District’s Chris Randall on Saturday, May 4 from 10:00 am-3:00 pm to help install innovative natural erosion control materials and plant living willow stems.
Children running carefree through the forest. Having conversations on tree stumps. Balancing atop fallen logs. The imagery around Forest School – a worldwide movement focused on bringing pre-school-aged children back outside – paints a picture of a magical childhood in the woods.
In fact, “magical” is exactly how outside observers often describe what they see at Forest School in session.
Most often, Forest School is a pre-school alternative favored by parents that are passionate about spending time outdoors, and about protecting the environment. They want to nurture that love in their own children from a young age, and lay the foundation for a life of environmental stewardship.
But the end of the day – is Forest School really making a difference? If so, how?
Originating in Scandinavia, Forest School is an educational approach that has been around for more than 50 years. Today, there are thousands of schools around the world, and the Forest School approach is taking root across Canada.
Forest School is centered on giving children regular and repeated access to the same natural space while expanding their knowledge through experiential, inquiry-based, and play-based learning.
In our community, we’ve witnessed a strong, and growing, interest in the Forest School approach. The FortWhyte Forest School launched its first session in the fall of 2016, and we’ve seen many families grow and flourish with the program since then.
Studies suggest that the Forest School approach to learning yields innumerable benefits to children and their families. Time spent in nature – particularly, regular and repeated access to the same natural space – has incredible benefits on preschool-aged children, including:
Great! But that’s not all. Research also shows that children that participate in Forest School programs come away with an increased knowledge of the natural world around them, meaning the Forest School approach is also of service to the planet.
The place-based connection developed at Forest School is foundational to children’s relationship with the land.
And you know that, more than ever, we need to be equipped for the environmental changes and challenges that are affecting us today.
But first, we need to heal our disconnect with nature. That’s why regular and repeated access to the same natural space has such a powerful impact.
We believe that education – in this case, early childhood education – is on the front lines of making meaningful progress on climate change. And we believe that we’re doing our part by encouraging those early connections to the land.
Often, as adults, we can’t see the connections between environmental issues and daily actions. But kids do. Children are instinctively great at making these connections.
We believe that we need to focus on educating young people, not simply because they'll age into being the climate leaders of tomorrow, but because we all know that kids are our greatest teachers today.
Celebrate Mom and Mother Earth.
Inspired by spring, we've rounded up our pick of Mother's Day gifts that will make an impact. The best part? 100% of your purchase supports environmental education in our community.
Spend time in nature with your family all year long with a FortWhyte Alive Family Membership. As members, your family will be able to explore the trails and connect with nature whenever you want to celebrate mom – and Mother Earth.
Place a love note on our Wetland Boardwalk Trail this Mother's Day. Your personalized plaque will be placed along one of FortWhyte’s best known and most loved trails, a floating pathway through a lively wetland ecosystem that boasts a diversity of flora and fauna. The trail is the ideal spot to stroll — or to simply pause, relax and reflect.
Let us take the work out of Mother’s Day – we have a jam packed schedule for the whole family to enjoy together! Start your morning off with a beautiful brunch and a gentle stroll on our trails. Keep a lookout for goslings, ducklings and bison calves.
Visit the Nature Shop and stock up on gardening books, planters, and garden ornaments during our Mother’s Day Sale. As always, the Nature Shop takes care to source local, Canadian, handmade, and sustainable products so you can feel good about your purchases.
We truly believe that exploring, learning and connecting with nature is how we can create change in the world. People like you make it all possible — if you've been waiting to join us for a visit, there's never been a better time than now.
Thank you for celebrating Earth Day with us!
You came out in the thousands yesterday to explore, learn and connect with nature — and get inspired to take meaningful action in honour of the earth.
Huge thanks are in order to all of the exhibitors, performers and the many volunteers that made this event possible:
Finally, thanks to all of you that came out to take some time out to honour and appreciate this incredible planet. After a full day of new faces and meaningful conversation, we are feeling inspired and energized by each and every one of you.
Earth Day is an important reminder to us all that we can and do make a difference.
Photos by Heather Woods Photography