A blue-winged teal enjoys the shade of Little Egg Creek. A NAIT work project completed June 17 will provide some additional shade to the creek, allowing for an increase in habitat. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A work bee along Morinville’s trail system earlier this week will provide improvements to the drainage ditch behind Sunshine Lake, according to Joel Gervais, an associate researcher in Biological Sciences at NAIT. Gervais was in Morinville working with Town of Morinville staff and students from Morinville Community High School to plant some trees and fruit bearing plants June 17.
Gervais and his helpers believe planting the trees in the riparian buffer between the trail and drainage ditch, known outside the community as Little Egg Creek, will improve the ecosystem of the area by providing shade to encourage wild life.
“Although there is not a lot of sport fish in the creek, there are a lot of other little fish like brook stickleback and fathead minnows,” Gervais explained. “A lot of them will use this area during the summer for feeding and for spawning.”
Gervais said the goal of the project is to plant enough trees to provide habitat for birds and ducks, as well as providing shade over the top of the stream. “That shade cools the water down. The water holds more oxygen, and therefore you can have more fish that can breath more oxygen,” he said. “You also have better habitat for invertebrates, which brings more fish to the area because of the food.”
The NAIT project is part of the Sturgeon River Research Project, an initiative started in 2010. The third year of the project has seen the introduction of riparian health assessment through the watershed.
In Morinville that work in the riparian zone included the planting of a few black polar, white spruce, willows, dogwood, Saskatoon, raspberry, pinch cherry, and black and red currents. In addition to the quickly propagating willow and dogwood plants providing shade, Gervais said the fruit plants would provide food for animals and the people walking the trails. “A lot of the edible species that have gone in have gone in because it is an urban area,” he said. “Who doesn’t like having Saskatoons and currents.”
Public Works Operations Manager Donald Fairweather said NAIT came up with the project and approached the Town’s Community Services Department, who felt it was a good idea and a good tie in with the Town’s Incredible Edible program, a project that has put vegetables in town planners and fruit trees along Morinville’s trail system.
Sadly, 29 of the plants placed along the creek June 12 when the project started were harvested before they could bear fruit. When crews returned to the site June 17, workers found some of the plants in the creek, while others appear to have gone on down the trail with whoever removed them.
But the uprooting of the new plants has not deterred those involved in the project. Fairweather said the involvement of MCHS in the project helps to make it a win for the community. “The more students and community you get involved into any project, the more they are going to care for it and have an interest in it,” Fairweather said.
Allen Jacobson, Morinville’s Community Development Coordinator / Event and Volunteer Specialist agrees. “This whole Little Egg Creek area is just ripe for it and ready for it,” Jacobson said. “The idea is to get the high school involved this year, and we’ll go forward by getting the junior high school involved next year because they are just down the road. Each of them will have some ownership in it. Hopefully the Community Gardens gets involved in it as well.”
Morinville Community High School biology teacher Neil Korotash was on hand June 17 with a number of student volunteers. He said his Urban Agriculture class, set to start in the fall, would work with the project. “Notwithstanding from a biology perspective, the riparian habitat and that kind of thing, I thought it would be neat to have raspberries, currents and what not to look after as my course progresses. We’ll harvest some berries and make some jams.”
Korotash said 70 students have selected the new course next year. He is anticipating approximately 20 students per semester in the first year of the program.
Above right: MCHS student Amy Leung throws herself into her shovel work.