Windstorm's bright side on display at Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
June 17, 2018 - 11:59pm

The windstorm of June 20, 2017 wasn’t entirely a bad thing.

Sure, it did knock out power to many parts of the city for several days, and it’s costing the municipality millions of dollars to clean up, but there’s always a silver lining.

Up at the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, situated behind, or east, of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, new flora and animal habitats are only beginning to flourish.

Kathryn Huedepohl, Program Lead with the Nature Centre, says they fielded many calls in the storm’s aftermath with offers to help clean up and replant trees. Part of the response they gave to people was that this is just a natural event.

“As I take groups through, I notice it’s really become a thinking point for the kids. They go from feeling like they’re just walking through a forest studying whatever to actually feeling an impact because when you walk through where the trees are down, it kind of feels like a battle zone,” she explains. “They get really quiet and introspective -- some have gotten a tear to their eye because of the damage.”

What’s perhaps more amazing, she points out, is that this is the first time in about 100 years that hikers can see both lakes at the same time.

“I’ve worked here for 20 years and up until the windstorm, on the Wishart Trail, I thought there were only eight birch trees,” she says. “When the windstorm came, it blew down everything that wasn’t a birch tree and I realized that whole area is just peppered with them. That’s going to help them become more established.”

Huedepohl also says root balls that are still sideways have begun to collect water -- another opportunity for the local ecosystem to welcome new life.

‘It gives people a good picture of how every "natural disaster" isn’t a disaster,” she continues. “It gives a better overall picture for people to consider, where they can see this is a natural process and actually a good thing.”

An interpretive display is now available for viewing about halfway along the Wishart Trail.

Renovations to begin this fall at Lacombe Hospital

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