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Plant a Willow, Save a Shoreline

Posted on October 9, 2018

Last month, a group of 20 inspiring volunteers — including youth and university students — worked together to plant willows along the shorelines of two lakes at FortWhyte Alive.

Participants rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty to plant over 1500 pencil-thin willow cuttings, 600 dogwood cuttings and 100 2” thick stakes by pushing, pounding or trenching them into the soil. Incredible.

From an Industrial Past to Our Shared Sustainable Future

Did you know? FortWhyte Alive’s unstable shorelines are a relic of our industrial past. Our five lakes are actually the remains of pits that were excavated by heavy machinery during Canada Cement Company’s clay mining operations, starting in 1911. Bulldozers and other machinery left steep shorelines behind, prone to slumping and erosion.

Over the years, a lot has changed. Through the restorative power of Mother Nature and the helping hands of countless individuals in our community, our lakeshores are now host a beautiful variety of grasses and perennials — and have served as the backdrop for many memorable moments in nature.

Continuing to Replant and Restore

Still, there are sections where woody plants — such as trees and willows — have not taken root. In seeking expert advice from Manitoba Conservation District Association, we learned about the effectiveness of using willows in shoreline restoration projects throughout rural Manitoba.

Willows happen to have an almost magical cloning ability – the buds on clipped branches soaked in water will begin to take root. When planted, this new cutting will begin to grow extensive root systems which act like “nature’s rebar” to hold the soil together. Pretty cool.

Thank you!

A huge thank you goes out to those who donated hours, expertise and plants to make this project happen: Chris Randall of Seine-Rat River Conservation District, Audrey and Armand Belanger of East Interlake Conservation District, and Lynne and Rebekah Vickery, permaculturists and FortWhyte Alive volunteers. Thanks to our planting volunteers and to the many other FortWhyte Alive volunteers who assisted with preparation, clipping and planting, and even capturing photos of the planting workshop.

This is an inspiring example of the restorative power of Mother Nature and the impact that individuals in our community have each and every day. From all of us, thank you!


This program was made possible by the continuing support of the FortWhyte Model Watershed Project by RBC Foundation.

Want to get your hands dirty and do good? Learn more about how you can get involved by emailing