An enthusiastic group of about 50 elementary school students, teachers and aides swarmed the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology’s Snk'mip Marsh Sanctuary in September for a massive planting bee in the warm fall sunshine.
The day saw more than 300 native tree seedlings and shrubs put into the ground in recently restored areas of the sanctuary which is located at the north end of Slocan Lake in the Kootenay region of BC.
The students broke into teams and while one team was planting, others learned about invasive species and biodiversity using the newly created outdoor classroom area. After the students departed by school bus back to their home town of Nakusp, a group of community volunteers arrived in the late afternoon to help finish off the planting. Volunteers came from the nearby communities of New Denver, Hills, Trail, Winlaw and Nakusp.
The plantings included traditional Indigenous food/medicine plants such as Black Hawthorn, Blue Elderberry, Saskatoon, Beaked Hazelnut, Thimbleberry and Sheperdia canadensis (Soopolallie) which the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology was asked to plant by a representative of the Autonomous Sinixt, the First People of this area. In addition, Dogwood, Nootka Rose, Mock Orange, Paper Birch, Bebbs Willow and Black Cottonwood were planted as appropriate to the terrain.
Later in the fall, other restored areas of the sanctuary including several kilometres of decommissioned road surfaces will be seeded with a native grass seed mix.
The day's events were organized by the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS) and hosted by the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology (VFE) which is the land trust and registered charity that stewards the nature sanctuary.
"We are very grateful for our partnership with CKISS, they have organized many planting events and weed pulls at Snk'mip during the past four years since we've owned the sanctuary property. Coordinator Laurie Frankcom does a great job of liaising with the schools and the public and making the events at Snk'mip fun for the participants," said VFE director Lorna Visser.
"Snk'mip is a welcoming place for learning and nature appreciation, we're happy to host school groups whenever possible," she said. "To see the delight on the kids' faces as they freely ran around outdoors on a beautiful fall day, all the exercise they were getting, and how they really dug in to get those plants into the ground was gratifying. Plus they learned a lot, both experientially and from CKISS's great activities such as an Invasive Species Jeopardy game."
Laurie Frankcom of CKISS comments: "We are thrilled to once again partner with the VFE on restoration and community engagement. Our partnership began in 2018 when we hosted a community weed pull as part of VFE’s Opening Ceremonies Event.”
The new outdoor classroom area at the nature sanctuary is an important space for local schools, organizations like CKISS, and other environmental education groups. “When students are given the opportunity to learn by experience in an outdoor setting, they’ll gain a better appreciation for wetlands and biodiversity,” said Frankcom. “It allows us a chance to showcase that wetlands are vital aquatic and riparian ecosystems. They are important stopovers for migrating birds, they are home to many species at risk, and they’re important for water filtration, flood control, and they act as a carbon sink. We believe that when youth connect with nature they become good stewards of the land," said Frankcom, CKISS’s Education Program Co-ordinator.
The cost of all the necessary plants, seeds and supplies for this fall’s planting effort was funded by the Public Conservation Assistance Fund of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
Ecological restoration work at the Snk'mip Marsh Sanctuary this summer included the construction of several easily accessible wetland ponds at which students can study insects, plants, amphibians and reptiles, the outdoor classroom area, a new pathway that is accessible for people with disabilities including those who use wheelchairs, and a fully-accessible marsh-overlook viewpoint.
Funding for this year's ecological-restoration and trail-creation work was provided by the Columbia Basin Trust, McLean Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, Regional District of Central Kootenay, Slocan Valley Legacy Fund, Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, and many generous individual donors and supporters of the VFE.
Those interested in learning more are invited to check out the VFE's website www.valhallafoundationforecology.org and the CKISS site: www.ckiss.ca
[Blog post by VFE Director Lorna Visser]