Grey Nuns White Spruce Park
2023 CAMA Environmental Leadership & Sustainability Award
The City of St. Albert has received national recognition for its development of Grey Nuns White Spruce Park from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA). The City was presented with the 2023 CAMA Environmental Leadership & Sustainability Award, in the 20,001 to 100,000 population category.
Video length - 2:05
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.
In 2022, the City of St. Albert constructed new amenities within the GNWSP that commit to protecting the park and forest for the long-term and maintaining accessibility for everyone to explore, gather and learn more about this unique area.
Located within the park you will find over 4 km of trails utilizing pre-existing disturbed areas, boardwalks, viewpoints, two outdoor classrooms, a picnic shelter, and nature play.
Throughout the park residents can enjoy a number of integrated art features. The first of which is the outdoor classroom at the Central Interpretive Area. This outdoor classroom is artist-designed to mimic a bird’s nest. Along the multi-use trail, the river lookout is artist-designed in the shape of a beaver tail that even has a railing that evokes a beaver dam. Along the boardwalk and on the picnic shelter ceiling you will find pyrography features or more commonly known as wood-burning. The wood-burning is in the theme of woodland, animals, and trees.
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.
- All cyclists must stay on the multi-use trail surrounding the park.
- Please respect the environment and do not feed any wildlife in accordance with the Parks Bylaw (07/2022)
- 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.
The City of St. Albert is committed to protecting the historical and environmental significance of the GNWSP. Bookings and events at the GNWSP will be limited to the picnic shelter and the outdoor classroom at the central interpretive area for environmental education by community organizations.
Please complete the Facility Booking Request form. A staff member will follow up with you within two business days to confirm your information and booking. Requests are accepted in the order they are submitted.
For additional information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
During the construction in the summer of 2022, over 2000 white spruce seedlings were planted across four different locations in and around the forest. 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.
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 were 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.
During construction in the summer of 2022, over 2000 white spruce seedlings were planted across four different locations in and around the forest. With over 23,000 white spruce seedlings planted since 2014, we are working towards a sustainable white spruce forest as directed in the GNWSP Management Plan.
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 in the GNWSP. It is envisioned that the plantings will expand the forested area, along with the interior planting of open areas, will allow the historically designated white spruce forest to continue in perpetuity. If you come across a trail plot, please be careful not to disturb it to ensure the healthy growth of our new trees.
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 conjunction with the Red Willow Park West Master Plan, which was updated in 2018 and guided the development of the park. With the growing Riverside neighbourhood and increasing use of the GNWSP, there was a need to provide better access to the area while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the white spruce forest.
The GNWSP Management Plan took home the 2015 Parks Excellence award from the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association. View the video
How do I get there?
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. Overflow parking is also available at Larry Olexiuk Field.
Last edited: September 27, 2023