Looking back as part of looking forward … building on the past successes and creating new ventures that interest, intrigue, enhance and continue to focus on people and the Parks … “The Friends of Walkers Creek”, in its first year under the revised name, stands very pleased with the efforts made and the advances achieved.
“Mulching” may sound like a chore but it is anything but that when the Cubs and Scouts pitch in and with great energy manage to spread mulch which protects the trees in the Parks. Instructions on planting native specie plants along the Creek side was a lesson well learned and a venture on which “The Friends’ built, engaging a entire Grade Five class from Prince Philip School in a major rejuvenation project at the Costen Boulevard entrance. As part of the plan included in a grant submission to the Niagara Community Foundation, the involvement of young people was a central thread in the plans to rejuvenation that Buffer Zone. A grant of $1,500, with assistance form The City and the NPCA saw trees, bushes and native plants installed by the youngsters with adult assistance. This area will be a demonstration plot, showing the native specie plants that can be readily added to home gardens, increasing the support to pollinating and beneficial insects.
The Clean City Committee’s April “Pitch In Week” is an annual challenge to gather the winter detritus and remove it from the Parks. This same group of Prince Philip school students did yeoman duty cleaning up what has become a ‘teenagers’ gathering spot’ off Parnell. From a mess to a pristine open area, these youngsters managed to gather, bag and remove the litter … a lesson learned on the undesirable aspect of casual littering that they acquired through this exercise. Their joyful energy was a delight to experience and share.
The helpful guidance we received from Liz Fritshaw of RCS and Jocelyn Baker of NPCA, as we prepared our Niagara Community Foundation grant submission, and the success enjoyed when the grant was approved, will encourage “The Friends” to seek other financial assistance of similar kinds, allowing for and supporting more timely advances in chosen projects. With signs identifying the new plants in the Buffer Zone, casual observation can encourage folks to consider making native species an important part of home and business gardens. Involving the youth in this project showed their levels of interest and willingness to be shown proper techniques, care and attention to plants and planting while also giving them a sense of ownership in improving and being respectful of the Parks. The return of this classroom group, along with their ‘Reading Buddies” from Kindergarten was a further practical effort to create an atmosphere and environment that will be a “Classroom In The Parks” program, bringing the youth into the Parks for practical lessons, building awareness of nature and its usefulness, while encouraging volunteerism and outdoor play.
The Walkers Creek Parks , through “The Friends of Walkers Creek”, were chosen to host approximately one hundred and fifty delegates, both staff and elected officials, from municipalities across Canada on tours of the Parks during a major National Confercnce. The interest in what can be accomplished through cooperative efforts of a Community Group and Departments of the City and Region was enthusiastic, with a number of delegates seeking more information to enable them to consider such an approach in their home communities.
The Annual Spring Walkers Creek Plant Sale was a success, presenting locally grown plants to folks seeking to expand their garden in size or variety. With all plants donated by folks from their home gardens, the quality is excellent, the variety most interesting and the assurance of adaption to local conditions is enhanced. The money raised in this Sale is immediately earmarked for purchases that will add to the enjoyment and beauty of the Parks. Park Benches, unique specimen native trees, native shrubs and flowering plants, as well as identity tags on trees are but some of the benefits achieved through the Plant Sale funds.
Continuing a very positive feature of years gone by, “The Friends” once again organized and funded All Candidates’ Nights for candidates to City Council from Grantham and St. George’s Wards as part of the Municipal Election. Goodly crowds attended a meeting at the Kiwanis Center for St. George’s Ward candidates and at the Grantham Lions Club on Niagara Street for the Garntham City Council candidates. Presentations, posed questions and a lengthy “Meet and Greet” opportunity allowed voters to query the candidates, and also share time with Mayoral Candidates, School Trustees candidates and Regional Council candidates. Bringing people together with the candidates hopefully encouraged good voting decisions. The absence of an All Candidates meeting for School Trustees this year, by “The Friends”, is a matter that will be taken under consideration for future elections.
The loss of the pedestrian bridge from the Beau Valley area into the parks, due to erosion of the creek bank, is a matter of serious concern as its absence cancels easy access to many folks for whom the Parks are an enjoyable escape or passageway. As this is being written in early December, initial soil survey work is underway as is the design and planning for the installation of a new bridge to replace the old in a more secure manner.
With the opening of the new “Walkers Creek Condos” on Scott street, a new group of folks will hopefully find pleasure and enjoyment in the Parks. We welcome them and encourage them to become involved in the planning and projects that are forthcoming. We would also be pleased to have more folks from the Grantham Avenue area of the Creek become more engaged and consideration of efforts to achieve that will be part of the coming months.
The year ended on a very high note, as noted in a previous article, with the granting of an “Award Of Merit” to “The Friends of Walkers Creek” for the efforts made to conserve, preserve and enhance the Parks. To be so recognized by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, and as the only Community Group so recognized for some years, speaks volumes to the efforts of the people, now including the school students, Cubs and Scouts, who care for and about the Walkers Creek watercourse and associated Parks. The Directors of “The Friends of Walkers Creek” received, in the name of the Members and Friends of “The Friends of Walkers Creek”, the standing ovation of the more than one hundred attendees at the ceremony.
“The Friends” are on a ladder of improvement, of encouragement, of involvement. This is not a plateau on which rest can be taken and we continue to rely on the association of good folks with ideas, others with energy, still other significant persons, particularly Grantham Ward Councillors Bill Phillips and Dawn Dodge and RCS Staff persons Mike Anderson and Mauro Bechetti, who help turn dreams into reality. And to each and all, “The Friends”, including those who enjoy the Parks and Watercourse, are eternally grateful.
On Thursday, November 26th, “The Friends of Walkers Creek” was the recipient of the “Award of Merit” from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) at a recognition event for the many volunteer groups that brings NPCA services to communities. The event, held at Balls Falls, saw over one hundred and twenty-five individuals representing groups from within the jurisdiction of the NPCA recognized with appreciation by Senior NPCA staff and Board Members.
“The Friends of Walkers Creek” was the only community group that received the “Award of Merit”, a truly significant designation reflecting the years of quiet, consistent, caring attention given to the Walkers Creek watercourse, Parks and community. On receiving the Award, “The Friends” received a standing ovation from the many attendees who know what efforts are involved and what differences volunteers can make in supporting positive actions to enhance, restore and preserve the natural habitat and the watercourses.
The latest venture by “The Friends” saw the completion of a rejuvenated and restored buffer zone at the Gosten Street entrance to the Parks. Of significance to this project, funded by the Niagara Community Foundation, was the healthy involvement of school students and teachers from Prince Philip School, as the initial effort by “The Friends” to encourage awareness of nature, appreciation of volunteerism and acquisition of planting skills by the young people. With assistance from City staff, NPCA staff and volunteers of “The Friends”, the students prepared the plot, were instructed in the different planting methods for trees, shrubs and flowering plants while also acquiring the names of native plant species with which the plot is now populated. Involving youth in the appreciation of nature and its many experiences and lessons, is now an ongoing program by “The Friends”. The Parks as a classroom takes on more relevance educationally while also encouraging respect for the Parks, increased play opportunities within the Parks and a sense of satisfaction in being able to point out how their efforts make a difference.
Specimen trees, large planting efforts of native species, additional park benches added at pleasing locations, identification by tagging of trees, increased signage, cooperative joint efforts with the City, the NPCA, a number of other community groups are all a part of the NPCA Award recognition. When the Conference of Municipalities senior staff and elected officials held its convention in Niagara falls, over one hundred and fifty delegates enjoyed a tour of some of the parks, hearing how volunteers and City administration can be such successful partners is assuring the longevity and add pertinence to such spaces, places and facilities, explained by leadership from “The Friends”. The many questions posed by the delegates indicated a high level of interest in such ventures, which for many, seemed a new concept with much promise for their home communities.
The Directors of “The Friends of Walkers Creek” received the Award in the name of the many Members and Friends, past and present, the small core of ever-ready volunteers and with recognition of the fine support received from our Ward Councillors, City and NPCA staff. Within the Directors, a special sense of gratitude was shared as Della Trojan, Vice Chair of “The Friends” is the one person who has provided the leadership, energy, spark and enthusiasm that has seen many of these projects advance to completion.