Grey Nuns White Spruce Park

park closed - Construction Notice 

Until fall 2022, the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park is closed due to construction. Do not enter the park during this time as there are safety hazards throughout the park. Construction activities are ongoing and may be intermittent depending on weather and ground conditions.

Read full details about the project

2,500 white spruce seedlings were planted around the forest floor and southeast edge of the forest in the summer of 2021. Please take care to leave the pink and red flags in place so the growth of the new seedlings can be monitored. Tree tubes and cages were also installed to protect the seedlings from rabbits and mice until they can establish themselves.

About the Park

The Grey Nuns White Spruce Park (GNWSP) is an ecologically and historically significant area located just east of Ray Gibbon Drive. This designated Municipal Historic Resource is the home of many trees that are well over 100 years old, and a habitat for a variety of birds, mammals, plants, and amphibians.

As part of the on-going management of the GNWSP, the following activities may be occurring in the park to keep the forest healthy and safe for visitors:

  • Tree maintenance involving pruning and removal or clearing of deadfall.
  • Planting of new trees.
  • Planting trials to test best practices for reforestation.
  • Control measures for invasive species.
  • Controlled access in areas that need protection.

Please remember when using the park:

  • All dogs must be on-leash.
  • Pick up after your pet.
  • Natural areas may contain hazardous conditions, so use at your own risk.
  • Leave no trace and stay on established trails.
  • Leave trees (both living and non-living) in place.

Sturgeon River Ice Safety

The City of St. Albert cautions everyone to stay off the Sturgeon River in the winter. The river ice surface is unpredictable and not safe for any type of recreational activity. Learn more ice safety

Current Projects

Tree Maintenance

The GNWSP was struck with extreme weather events over the past couple of years, including several wind storms in 2017. As a result, there were areas within the forest boundary that needed more intensive maintenance to manage hazardous trees for visitor safety and to improve the health of the forest. Activities included felling leaning trees and ensuring fallen trees were dropped down to the ground. 

The majority of the tree material remained in the forest, but some was removed to ensure there would be good space for the understory to regrow and to help reduce forest fire risk by removing some of the fuel load in the forest. To minimize the impact on the forest, horses were used to move out some of the fallen trees. Work began in February 2018 and was completed in March 2018 while the ground was frozen.

Two horses with a man walking behind them; the horses are pulling a log.

Man leading a team of two horses.

Tree Planting

In the summer of 2021, 2500 white spruce seedlings were planted within and on the southwest side of the forest to continue to return the area to its native forest as directed in the GNWSP Management Plan. With over 20 000 white spruce seedlings planted since 2014, we are working towards a sustainable white spruce forest.

The seedlings were grown in a nursery from seeds collected within the historic white spruce forest and extracted/stored at the Alberta Tree Improvement & Seed Centre. To provide the best chance at success, some sites were prepared for planting using a mounding process, which turns over the soil to provide raised growing sites for these seedlings, making them higher than the competition around them. Funds for production, site preparation, planting, and ongoing enhancements of these seedlings have been obtained from grants (including a Canada 150 grant from Tree Canada), corporate donations, and the City of St. Albert.

More projects are planned as the forest and park is developed. It is hoped this expansion of the forested area, along with the interior planting of open areas, will allow the historically designated white spruce forest to continue in perpetuity.

Group of people who helped tree plant in Grey Nuns White Spruce Park

Grey Nuns White Spruce Park area

Trial Plots

The GNWSP working group continues to work on trial plots to reforest different areas of the forest with white spruce.

There is no regeneration of the white spruce in some areas, and an adaptive management plan is being piloted to ensure the sustainability of the forest. These plots vary in size and number of plants and are being managed to ensure success among the numerous species that are thriving on the forest floor. The findings will help plan remediation for other areas of the forest, especially where trees have blown down.

If you come across a trial plot, please be careful not to disturb it to ensure the healthy growth of our new trees.

GNWSP Management Plan and Development

In May 2014, the City Manager approved a management plan for the GNWSP. The management plan is meant to guide decisions about managing and protecting the forest, but also to create opportunities for the community to learn about and use the forest. This plan will work in conjuction with the Red Willow Park West Master Plan, which was updated in 2018 and will be used to guide development of the park . With the growing Riverside neighbourhood and increasing use of the GNWSP, there is a need to provide better access to the area while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the white spruce forest.

View the GNWSP Management Plan

The GNWSP Management Plan took home the 2015 Parks Excellence award from the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association. View the video

Park Planning

The City of St. Albert is planning to develop trails and park amenities within the GNWSP in the next five years. Feedback was collected in over 140 surveys that were completed through the open house at the Kinsmen Banquet Centre on October 8, 2019, and the online survey from October 8-22, 2019. This feedback has been used to refine the park plan and ensure a strong vision for the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park.

Public Engagement Results and Revised Designs 

Public Engagement Report

Public Engagement Report
This report summarizes the public engagement results and key themes.

Proposed Park Design

Proposed Park Design
Showing the trail map and interpretive area designs prior to public engagement. The highlighted yellow illustrates how public feedback was used to revise the designs.

Revised Park Design

Revised Park Design
This document shows the new trail map and interpretive area designs with the revisions completed. The City will be moving forward with these designs.

Design Principles

Design Principles
The principles guiding the development and refinement of the park design.

Construction Timelines

Construction has begun to create new amenities within the GNWSP. This work will protect the park and forest and maintain accessibility for everyone to explore, gather, and learn more about the area.

  • October 1 - mid-November 2021: There will be limited access to the park. Follow posted signage and keep out of closed areas.
  • Mid-November 2021 - fall 2022: There will be a full closure to the area.  Do not enter the park during this time.

Read full details about the project

How do I get there?

The Rankin Drive parking lot is currently closed for construction.

You can access the park from the Rotary Park parking lot (A in the map). Once you arrive, head west on the trail and cross the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge. You can also access the park from a parking lot on Rankin Drive (B in the map). Parking here will place you at the north end of the park.

The red border in the photo below shows the boundary of the GNWSP.

Image from above showing where Grey Nuns White Spruce Park is

Related Pages

Last edited: May 2, 2022