The Friends Earn Another award

Thursday February 24, 2016, The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) again recognized the efforts, cooperation and creative actions of many groups including “The Friends Of Walkers Creek”.

Proudly, The Friends of Walkers Creek shared recognition with the Port Dalhousie Beautification and Works Committee, Friends of One Mile Creek and others as partners with the NPCA in “Restoration Projects”.

Engaging students from local schools in creating new gardens, in teaching youth the skills and joys of participation while understanding the value of the work done, is an ongoing aspect of much work by The Friends. A buffer zone garden which is now “The Classroom In The Park” is an excellent example of this cooperation … City, NPCA, The Friends and Prince Philip School. Planting, maintaining, sharing this one venture limits the flow of water and materials into the Creek. A ‘Pollinating Garden’, funded and planned by the Niagara Restoration Council assisted by The Friends again with students involved is a direct response to the decline in number of bees and pollinating insects. Specifically plants that attract the wee insects were planted, the area mulched and the what limited maintenance was required became another success for The Friends.
A special pleasure for The Friends is meeting some of the students who return with their parents to see what he or she and classmates had accomplished. Knowing plant names, understanding different planting techniques for flowers, bushes and trees is a gained knowledge that can blossom further as these youngsters become adults, home owners and volunteers with groups that interest them. Plus, the joy of playing freely in the parks, being aware of the place of nature in providing interest and enjoyment, are ideas firmly planted, along with the satisfaction of successful gardening. Some call it a “Sense of Responsibility” as the students do take ownership of the work in which they have participated coupled with a caring for the Parks.

In 2015, The Friends of Walkers Creek group was awarded the NPCA Award of Merit for its development and enhancement of the Parks. This year’s Award recognizes the efforts to improve and support quality water resources with, quietly, a hope that these endeavours may encourage the spawning fish seen downstream, to travel further into the Parks as they did in years past.

An overflow crowd of participants and staff filled the large program room at Ball’s Falls. As individuals and groups were identified and received their awards, one could only be seriously impressed with the variety and diversity of programs and projects fostered by the NPCA, supported by a vast collection of interested and dedicated individuals. From wetland conservators, beach erosion activities, the planting of trees, the development of programs for adults and children, interpretive heritage programs, artisans who share their skill in demonstrations, bird monitoring … and the list could go on.

For The Friends of Walkers Creek, one person is responsible for the creative projects, the motivation to achieve a plan, the engagement of school students, seriously monitoring the Parks and securing the cooperation of City and NPCA staff and skills. Della Trojan is that person, leading interpretive and explanatory walks for the public, holding the annual Friends’ Plant Sale in June at her home, overseeing the arrangements for the September Star Gazing Night and always having something of unusual interest to enhance the experience of the young students who so willing respond, with their teachers, to her offers of projects.

Supporting the efforts of The Friends of Walkers Creek through the membership association is encouraged as these funds are what allows The Friends to accomplish the many projects they undertake. The $10 annual membership fee per family, for which a City Income tax receipt is provided, is an investment that has benefit directly for the member and for the community as a whole. (Elsewhere on this website, information on obtaining a membership is provided.)

Thinking … Planning > > ACTION

Thinking and Planning over the cold months, now yields to actions. Yes… Pitch In Week saw the Parks swept with the assistance of students from Prince Philip school, grade seven … a fine group of youngsters saw what litter can do to the natural beauty, saw how using the waste barrels is the ‘right thing to do’, looked at the Buffer Zone garden planted last year by fellow students … and collected many bags of litter and recyclable materials. Active, energetic and now much more aware of the gem that the Walkers Creek Parks really are.
The Annual “Spring Stroll” is also history as last week Senior City Staff, with Della Trojan of the “Friends” as their guide, roamed the Parks from Melody Lane to Linwell Road. Jeff Silcox-Childs, newly appointed Manger of Parks, Cemeteries, Horticulture and Forestry was most impressed as the Parks were introduced to him. With Mauro Becchetti and Toni Delio, Senior Foemen of Parks and TES, Gavin Pally, City Arborist, Diana Lecinski, Staff person with the Accessible Committee, Kristen Sullivan, staff person with the Green Committee … a crowd that thoroughly viewed the Parks as they are, identified items that need attention and shared potential and plans to make the great Parks even better. Sharing the insights of the professionals is always a most beneficial event for the “Friends” as they see what can be, encourage us to take action and plan for efforts that will bring the Parks ever forward.
Of immediate interest is the blooming Cucumber tree in the park between the Bump Bridge and Linwell Road. More blossoms that seen in recent years, this unique tree, a member of the Magnolia family, is a native specie to this area. As an endangered species, records of the location of such trees are kept by the Ministry of Natural Resources. This tree was bought by and planted in its excellent location by the then “Walkers Creek Neighbourhood Association”. It is well worth a look-see. And check-out the interesting posting via Google … “Cucumber Tree (Species at risk)”
The new bridge over the Creek that will reconnect the Beau Valley area with the parks, proceeds … later than hoped but now with a July completion date. With a stronger, widermore accessibly useful bridge, we appreciate the patience of those who have waited for this renewal and we thank City Staff, and our Ward Councillors, for seeing to the progress and completion that is now more probable.
New signage for the Walkers Creek Parks is getting serious consideration. A large entry sign as well as smaller explanatory and identification signs are currently under design review which will be followed by costing and installation responsibilities. These signs are brought to the Parks courtesy of the funds raised by the Annual Plant Sale. This year the “Friends” Plant Sale will be held on Saturday, June 6th from 8:00 AM to noon at 88 Cherie Road. Plants for this sale most commonly are donated by Friends and Neighbours, and come from their home gardens. If you are looking particularly for native species, varieties of Hostas and pollinating plants, this sale, with its moderate prices, is the place to be.
The “Friends of Walkers Creek” is a voluntary membership organization and we welcome new members any time of the year. The $10 membership fee enables us to add to the Parks … benches, trees, bushes, signage … and also provides members with an opportunity to have their visions considered and implemented. We are pleased with the many Members who have already renewed their membership for 2015 and we look forward to hearing from more stalwart Friends. Income tax receipts are issued to all paid up Members in time for the dreaded Tax filing time.
Plans under active work and consideration include: the Annual General meeting; mulching efforts to protect trees and plantings; additions to the two Butterfly gardens; Spring and Autumn “Walks in the Parks’ with expert leadership (schedule in the “City Leisure Activities” booklet); planning for a more active youth program … “A Classroom In The Parks” to encourage younger folks to learn about, appreciate and be involved in activities and free play; a “Town Hall Meeting in the Parks” in August; the annual Star Gazing night” in September and we are seeking musicians who would like to wander the trails in the evenings playing their instruments … Pipers, Sax players, Trumpet … making joyful sounds that surprise and please folks in the parks and nearby neighbours. Contact us by phone, by email or in person!!
And do check us out on Facebook!!

Looking back as part of looking forward … 2014 in Review

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.

“The Friends of Walkers Creek” receives the NPCA”Award of Merit”

     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. 


All Candidates Meetings Report

        Candidates for City Council, representing St. George’s Ward and Grantham Ward recently shared their credentials, ideas, plans, visions and aspirations with interested voters on two evenings. Meetings arranged by, organized by and funded by “The Friends of Walkers Creek”, as part of that association’s efforts at community involvement, were much better attended than such previous experiences. 

         Tuesday evening’s All Candidates meeting in St. George’s Ward saw six of the eight contenders lay out their  vision for improvements, for corrective actions, with explanations as to why they should be that Ward’s Council representative. Juried questions, prepared by the audience, were posed to each candidate by Moderator John Storm. Similarly on Wednesday evening, all six Grantham Ward candidates had an opportunity to inform and engage voters.  Following the “Presentations”, the audiences were encouraged to stay and meet individually with candidates, providing an opportunity to share their views, question positions taken and seek insight on matters of concern. 

      St. Catharines Mayoral candidates, candidates for positions on Regional Council and the each of the  four School Boards … Public, Separate, English and French …  were invited to attend the “Meet and Greet” portion of the meetings and some did take advantage of this opportunity to be engaged with the audience. 

      The over two hundred and twenty interested voters who attended the combined meetings, are but a small portion of the approximately ten percent of the City’s voters in these combined Wards. They are  the more probable voters, equipped now with insights and opinions to guide their choices. Unfortunately, the local media was most notable by its absence, thereby denying other persons the opportunity to be aware of what Ward candidates saw as issues and possibilities. While the media coverage of the Mayoral contest has been extensive, it seems that the Ward Councillors, who are City Committee Members, are budget providers, are the voice of the communities they represent, having the decision making authority to direct the City initiatives, are under served by the St. Catharines media, a situation that does  not serve the City as well as it might. 

     “The Friends of Walkers Creek” has a proud tradition of providing such All Candidates evenings. Now in its tenth year of existence, this group is a viable force for positive involvement and progress in its chosen areas of interest and on broader community activities. A volunteer directed membership associaton, in cooperation with the City and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, the value of the Walkers Creek parks, is constantly being attended to, enhanced and continues to seek ways to engage more people in its activities and opportunities. With a major effort to engage school age children, building their awareness of nature, developing caring attitudes and adding life long useful skills, “The Friends of Walkers Creek”  is a model of what is possible in other areas of our City. “The Friends of Malcomson Park”, “The Friends of Municipal Beach” and “The Friends of Walkers Creek” provide a strong “troika” for community involvement, participation and enjoyment for all.