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RiverFest rolls into St. Albert

Take some trash, plant a tree to help Sturgeon

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am

ARBOREAL CHAMPIONS – Local residents get a chance to help the local eco-system with the upcoming Clean and Green RiverFest.
ARBOREAL CHAMPIONS – Local residents get a chance to help the local eco-system with the upcoming Clean and Green RiverFest.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Clean and Green RiverFest

This year's RiverFest runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 11 (Mother's Day). Visitors can help pick up trash or plant a tree to help improve the Sturgeon River.
Visit www.stalbert.ca/cleanup for details.

Hundreds of residents will celebrate Mother’s Day this month with trees and trash as the city’s annual Sturgeon River cleanup returns to St. Albert.

The 17th annual Clean and Green RiverFest event is this May 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event draws hundreds of residents down to the Sturgeon each year to collect trash and plant shoreline vegetation as part of the River Edge Enhancement Project (REEP).

Up to 500 people have attended the event in past years.

This year’s event will once again take place behind St. Albert Centre mall by the Sturgeon River, said city community recreation co-ordinator Margo Brenneis.

All you have to do to take part is come down to the registration desk at the site. City staff will give you gloves, bags, and a zone to patrol, in which you’ll be able to pick up as much trash as you can find.

Residents should flag any items that are sharp, heavy or dangerous for later collection by city workers, Brenneis said. They should also keep out of the river itself, as it may be dangerous.

Participants can also learn about different eco-initiatives at the event’s Environmental Fair, and take in free entertainment from some on-site buskers and children’s games.

“What we’re trying to do this year is tie it in a little bit more with Mother’s Day,” Brenneis said.

The first 100 mothers who come to the event will get a free carnation. Kids can also make mom a clay sculpture at the crafts station.

Or you can give a living Mother’s Day gift by stepping down to the nearby REEP planting site, located this year just east of the St. Albert Centre pedestrian bridge.

REEP is an ongoing project backed by the city to restore riparian (shoreline) vegetation to the Sturgeon River, with an aim to filter pollutants from runoff and draw more birds to the region.

The idea is to do more than just plant a wall of vegetation along the river, said REEP spokesperson Nicholas Batchelor. “We want to encourage birds and aquatic fowls to come in and be nibbling on things.”

City arborist Kevin Veenstra has gathered about 500 plants for this year’s event, Batchelor said. On tap to plant are a variety of native species including white spruce, alder, willows, and saskatoons.

Attendees will get a plant, gloves, and a shovel, and be asked to plant their seedling in one of the many holes Veenstra will drill on site prior to the event. They’ll also get a small copper strip to write their names on to mark what they plant.

Residents can also donate $200 to the REEP project to plant one of a limited number of big spruce trees at the site, Batchelor said.

“They can put it in a place of proud possession, come back and show (future) generations where they planted their roots.”

REEP progress

REEP has now established about seven vegetated plots along the Sturgeon near St. Albert Centre, having started its work in 2005.

Many of the earlier plots were created by roto-tilling, which let invasive weeds take hold and shade out native plants.

“We really lost three or four years of growth when we used to roto-till,” Batchelor said, as the plants had to grow enough to crowd out the weeds. That’s why they drill holes for the plants now instead.

Past events have also had a shortage of healthy native plants with which to put into REEP areas, Batchelor said.

“It’s often very difficult to find the species you’re looking for.”

That’s why the group is setting up a native plant nursery this summer near the grain elevators.

The plan is to put about 200 large pots into the ground at the site this summer with a drip irrigation system to follow later, Veenstra said. Crews will grow native plants in the pots to keep the plants from rooting into the ground, making them easier to remove. Many of these initial plants will be ones already growing on the site.

The plants should be ready for use in local plantings in about five years, Batchelor said.

Batchelor said his favourite memory of the RiverFest is that moment where a little kid plants something for the first time.

“They usually have a huge grin plastered on their face as they finish,” he said. “It’s pretty infectious, and I get to see it every year.”


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