St. Barbe Baker Forest Article Feb. 2019

In 1972 three organizations came together to create green spaces in Saskatoon’s urban landscapes. Now, after almost 50 years of growth, the forest planted south of the Chappell Yards (since named the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area) and the forest planted west of Highway 7 on 11th Street (since named to honour George Genereux) are struggling to maintain the original vision of green oases in the midst of cityscape. The centre block of the St. Barbe Baker forest has been made an off-leash dog park. Fat Bike trails have established in the east, centre and west blocks of the St. Barbe Baker site.

The Meewasin Valley Authority established the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Trust Fund. A Fund benefactor recently asked what plans for the St. Barbe Baker site still required funding. The Montgomery Place Community Association was asked our opinion on the plan for a parking area at the west edge of the forest, signs and barriers erected to prohibit vehicles, and our thoughts on the future of the George Genereux site as it fits with Saskatoon’s westward growth plans.

Initiatives mentioned at previous stakeholder meetings include benches, trailways, possibly butterfly gardens, edible berry or low-growing native bush forest, interpretive and educational signage, transplanting of willows around the West Swale wetlands protecting the waterfowl species, and support towards the maintenance of the woodlands and wetlands.

The MPCA response added that the educational potential of the entire area, including Chappell Marsh south of Cedar Villa Road, is exceptional. For teachers to be able to take students through forest, marsh and prairie in one field trip is a rare and rich opportunity. Is there a role for the Montgomery School Science Trek classes to contribute to the development of lesson plans and activities? In our Local Area Plan discussions, Montgomery residents talked about a walking and biking route from Montgomery Place to the St. Barbe Baker site. The huge impediment to this, of course, is the railyard. Hopefully future plans and discussions will come up with an innovative way to link our Montgomery Place residents with this natural area so close, and yet so far away.

From the possible future development and expansion west of the City, it would seem that the George Genereux section of forest will be under the most pressure as industrial and commercial enterprises seek more and more land. This “rural/commercial/industrial” land use, such as the City proposes for land west of Chappell Drive could also continue west to pressure land west of Highway 7, directly targeting the George Genereux forest area. All that green could turn to grey. Contact stbarbebaker.wordpress.com/contact with your ideas or comments.