Grey Nuns White Spruce Park
2,500 white spruce seedlings were planted around the forest floor and southwest edge in July 2019. 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 Forest 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 Grey Nuns White Spruce Park (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
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 the 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.
In July 2019, 2,500 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. The 11,600 spruce trees we have planted since 2016 have helped create 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.
The GNWSP Advisory Committee 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 to ensure the healthy growth of our new trees.
Grey Nuns White Spruce Park Management Plan
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.
The GNWSP Management Plan took home the 2015 Parks Excellence award from the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association. View the video
Future Development of the Park
The City of St. Albert is planning to develop trails and park amenities within the GNWSP in the next five years. Feedback from an open house and online survey in October 2019 has been used to refine the park plan and ensure a strong vision for the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park.
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 over the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge. You can also access the park from a parking lot on Hogan Road (B in the map). There is currently a detour to access this parking lot due to construction in the area. 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.
Last edited: January 25, 2021