Grey Nuns White Spruce Park
February-May 2019: ATCO is replacing a segment of natural gas pipeline crossing under the Sturgeon River. There will be some impacts to park users. Learn more
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 which provide 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, 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 existing trails
- Leave trees (both living and non-living) in place
The Grey Nuns White Spruce Park had been hit hard 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 falling 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 the forest fire risk by removing some of the fuel load in the forest.
Work began in February 2018 and was completed in March 2018 while the ground was frozen.
In July 2018, 3600 white spruce (Picea glauca spp.) 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 Grey Nuns White Spruce Park Management Plan. This is in addition to the 3000 planted on the west side in 2017 and the 5000 planted in the former pasture on the southeast side of the forest in the spring of 2016, which are helping create a sustainable white spruce forest.
The seedlings were grown from seeds collected in the fall of 2013 from within the historic white spruce forest and were grown in a nursery prior to being planted. 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 for following years as the forest and park is developed and eventually becomes part of the Municipal Parks Inventory. 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 Grey Nuns White Spruce Park 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 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 healthy growth of our new trees.
Erin Pickard - Environmental Associate – Community & School Liaison
780-459-1755 Ext. 3030
Grey Nuns White Spruce Park Management Plan
In May 2014, the City Manager approved a management plan for the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park. 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 Grey Nuns White Spruce Park 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 Grey Nuns White Spruce Park in the next five years. Click here to find out more information and get involved.
Margo Brenneis - Parks Planning Specialist
How do I get there?
Currently, access to the park is from the Red Willow Park trail that crosses over from Riel Recreation Park at Ray Gibbon Drive. Park at the end of Rodeo Drive by the BLESS Shelter and head west along the trail to the bridge.
Last edited: February 15, 2019