The Discovery Nature Sanctuary in Winkler held their official opening ceremony on June 9. The 32 acre sanctuary lies within the city limits and includes woodland, grassland and wetland habitats. Over 60 birds and 200 types of fauna have been spotted at the sanctuary. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)
The Discovery Nature Sanctuary in Winkler held their official opening ceremony on June 9. The 32 acre sanctuary lies within the city limits and includes woodland, grassland and wetland habitats. Over 60 birds and 200 types of fauna have been spotted at the sanctuary.
Committee Chair Paul Goossen told the crowd gathered that two yearling moose had been spotted at the facility only the week before.
“The presence of these two large mammals is a timely reminder that as recently as 250 years ago, the landscape where we are now gathered was very different,” he said. “We would have seen a waving sea of prairie grasses and wild flowers, herds of bison grazing, but wary of wolf packs looking for their next meal, and the ever fleet of foot pronghorn antelope. This land was also home to the first nations people.”
Goossen said when Margaret Klassen and Margaret Penner first began advocating for a bird sanctuary, it quickly became apparent that this site on the northeast corner of Winkler was ideal.
“The land was owned by the city and had a variety of habitats including wetlands,” he said.
The concept was approved by council as a nature sanctuary in June of last year, and work began right away. “Since that time the Discovery Nature Sanctuary committee has been busy planning development and enhancement of the sanctuary, for both flora and fauna and for enjoyment of the public,” he said. Hundreds of trees and shrubs have been planted, an accessibility trail has been created (bridges are still needed), and nest boxes placed.
Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen said most people think of infrastructure as things made of concrete and rebar, new subdivisions, or new schools, hospitals, personal care homes and libraries. But he said projects like this one are necessary as well, something that’s an important part of communities. He credited those with foresight for many of the similar projects in Winkler. “That’s how we got Bethel Heritage Park here,” he said. “It’s how we set aside a football and soccer pitch when there was a subdivision going up. It’s how we got (Pioneer Patch).”Friesen said the future is exciting. “It will be tremendous to see how the community uses this, how people can come here for respite and engage in nature,” he said.
Winkler Mayor Martin Harder said this is an example of a regional effort as some involved in the project live elsewhere. “In order to be regional, it doesn’t have to be outside of Winkler,” he said. “My efforts over the last 12 years is to make sure Winkler is a regional player, Winkler has a regional impact, and today I see people from the region that are investing into Winkler.”
Harder said this project is an example of the role the city can play in assisting, without taking the lead.
“It’s not about city council having all the vision,” he said. “It is because the people of Winkler care and they invest in community and we are just there alongside.”
Cliff Greenfield, Manager of the Pembina Valley Conservation District, spoke to the importance of this project.
“We would call this an outdoor classroom,” he said. “We know the schools are using it already and for those little people, they have a chance to learn about the environment, learn about nature and their place in it.”
“If they don’t know about it, they won’t care about it, they won’t protect it... so that’s really important for us.”
The Discovery Nature Sanctuary is open to the public at no cost from dawn to dusk.