Saskatoon’s Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area (325 acres) and George Genereux Urban Regional Park (148 acres) began as part of an ambitious, far-sighted afforestation greenbelt plan undertaken by the city in 1972. The plan proposed 3 categories: 1. Forest in perpetuity (660 acres), 2. Long-term planting (2200 acres), 3. Future public reserve areas (100 acres). The afforestation plan was linked with the Green Survival Program promoted by tree nurseries across North America at the time.
The 660 acres under the category “Forest in perpetuity” were planted in 1972 and 1973 on City-owned land that had been previously leased to farmers. The intent on inception was that these greenspaces become mature urban regional parks in future subdivisions when the city grew out in this direction.
Bare-root seedlings were obtained from the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration Tree Nursery at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. The species used were: American and Siberian elm, Manitoba maple, green ash, poplar, willow, caragana, Colorado spruce and Scotch pine.
The seedlings were planted with a tree planter in rows weaving in and out as much as 40 feet from the centre line. This produced a natural forest effect.
Now, coming on 50 years, the man-made forest provides a unique greenspace due in part to the boreal forest like feel produced by the succession to mature spruce and pine in many parts of the afforestation area. These species are continually expanding as their cones seed wider areas and successfully grow in. To find natural areas of spruce and pine one has to travel about 100 km NE of Saskatoon where the transition to the boreal forest zone begins.
Unfortunately, the full afforestation plan was never completed and these two areas remained neglected until Saskatoon’s rapid growth spurt began in 2008. The area where these parks exist is now part of a larger sector plan still in the works.
The Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas (Friends) , a non-profit charity, was established to advocate for the protection and enhancement of these laboratories of ecological succession with their unique biodiversity.
A 100 k grant from the Department of the Environment (“Environment and Climate Change Canada” or “ECCC”) is allowing the Friends to install protective barriers in areas where illegal vehicle entry has occurred and also to place signage. The Friends are also promoting educational environmental protection, climate action and wellness nature-based activities in these greenspaces.
Two heritage documentaries are being produced which will have an international reach. The first will celebrate the extraordinary humanitarian legacy of the forester Richard St. Barbe Baker, who has been called the first global conservationist. His lifelong work to protect forests, including the Redwood forests in California, and promote tree planting for habitat restoration, including research for and promotion of plans to reclaim the Sahara Desert is legendary. He had a deep understanding of forest ecology and was a climate change activist beginning in the 1930s. He was bestowed an honorary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Saskatchewan in 1971 by John Diefenbaker. The International Tree Foundation inaugurated by Baker in 1922 is commemorating its centenary in 2022.
The second heritage documentary film is focused on the 50th anniversary of the original planting (1972-2022) and the visionary ideals of the City of Saskatoon in initiating this project. During this era of climate change, it is valuable to highlight the paramount importance of nature based solutions to climate change, such as afforestation.
These films and associated celebrations will draw public attention to these local semi-wilderness habitats which are still relatively unknown. Public awareness about Saskatoon’s man-made forest is especially important at this moment when extensive discussions are taking place to make decisions on the management of parks and ecosystems in Saskatoon. These forests tie in well with Saskatoon’s strategic goals of environmental leadership and quality of life.
Please Come to the Wildwoods of Saskatoon.
The 326 acre Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in the City of Saskatoon at GPS 52.1006191,-106.753599 [off of Cedar Villa Road – Tsp Rd 362A]
The afforestation areas were started as city tree nurseries under the banner of the Green Survival Program. The Green Survival Programwas concerned about ecology abuse, and pollution, providing planting, and greening up the planet, with a motto, “It’s up to you!”
What is nephelococcygia?
The Trembling Aspen is also referred to as the Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx) Autumn colour of foliage CC3.0 Stan Shebs
Clouds in the sky
While practicing the art of self-isolation, and social distancing for COVID-19, take in the art of nephelococcygia. Nephelococcygia is simply laying back for the pleasure of seeking and finding shapes in clouds.
Can you draw, or paint the shapes which you find? When you do create a picture, would anyone ever believe, that really the clouds looked like that on that day?
Did you know that Air pollution drops as countries shut down amid spread of COVID-19 and India’s coronavirus lockdown is having a dramatic impact on pollution? Just as all the COVID-19 protocols meant that people stepped up and practiced various measures for their own personal safety, and the collective safety of friends and families, so too, it is important to save the habitats around the world from sky – and air pollution. What measures can you take to make sure that your grandchildren will be able to practice nephelococcygia? Where can you lower your carbon footprint? Can you change vehicles? Can you change the way your home or business sets its carbon footprint? Contemplate how to keep your air and sky pollution low with the same earnestness and passion devoted to COVID-19. Can you plant a tree? Actually can you plant a forest? What an amazing method forests and trees are to help reduce the carbon footprint around the world.
Do you have an inkling of the inscrutable history of the afforestation areas? The history no longer needs be enigmatic, mysterious, unreadable, inexplicable, unexplainable, incomprehensible, impenetrable, inscrutable, unfathomable, unknowable; opaque, abstruse, arcane, obscure, or cryptic thanks to a bit of a time line.
“Wisdom: Knowledge rightly applied. We assimilate lots of knowledge. Whether or not we do anything with that knowledge is a measure of our wisdom. That implies some change … and change can be difficult.” – Hyrum W. Smith
Geographical Pre-History ~ the Pleistocene Era ~ creation of the Yorath Island Spillway which results in the current “West Swale.”
Protect your dog in the severe cold winter weather warnings.
Richard St. Barbe Baker AFforestation Area, Saskatoon, SK
1883 Temperance Colonization Society under John Neilson Lake, first examined this area in 1882 and found that it would make an excellent location to found their community based on the ideals of the temperance movement. Nutana settlement is formed which later becomes a neighbourhood of the current City of Saskatoon.
1884Surveyor’s Map Plan of Township No 36 Range 6 West of the Third Meridian. Dominion Land Office April 25, 1884.
1890The Qu’Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway (QLSRSC) reached Saskatoon in 1890. [In 1889, QLSRSC railways were leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway and finally taken over by the Canadian Northern Railway in July 1906. At the rail station between the villages of Riversdale and Saskatoon, there was the QLL&SR bridge which was rebuilt in 1905, and again after a train fell through it in March 1914; the CNR rail bridge was demolished in 1965 to make way for the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge and the Idylwyld Freeway. The first location of the CNR train yards was where the Midtown Plaza shopping centre stands in contemporary down town Saskatoon.] Note there are both CPR and CNR lines running parallel to each other south west of Saskatoon.
1886. On September 10th 1886 Xavier Gaugeon is doing homestead duties upon his military homestead, the eastern half of section 22 Township 36, Range 6 West of the Third meridian has broken 7 acres in 1887, and 25 acres by 1891 and has built a 14 x 16 foot house. The land is home to 7 horses and 16 cattle. NOTE the southern half of this homestead this would correspond to a middle portion of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area [The 1/2 mile by 1 mile homestead begins 1/2 mile away from western edge and then extends 1/2 mile to the east]. The RSBBAA is defined as those parts of Southern half Section 22 and SW 23 township 36 range 6 west of the third meridian… On contemporary maps, CNR Chappell Yards takes up the entire northern half of 22 36 6 W3 the CNR rail line bisects this homestead location.
1899. William Kennedy Esq. puts in a homestead application for SW ¼ Section 22 Township 36 Range 6 West of the third meridian on April 28, 1899. As of 1899 Kennedy initially broke 5 acres of land, up a total of 125 acres by 1903. In 1903 ~ 85 acres were crop land. Kennedy owned 2 cattle and three horses with a frame house and log stable. Kennedy requests a land patent certificate on January 25, 1904. NOTE this a portion of land 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile extending alongside the extreme western edge of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area. On contemporary maps it can be seen that the railway line and the current CNR Chappell yards cuts the northern edge of this homestead.
NE 21-36-6 W3 or George Genereux Urban Regional Park had no homestead entry. The afforestation lands SE section 23-36-6-W3 also had no homestead entry ~ the unnamed afforestation area also commonly referred to as Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area [east and SW OLRA].
1906. In 1906 Saskatoon became a city with a population of 4,500, which included the settlements of Saskatoon, Riversdale, and Nutana.
1915Sectional Map Department of the Interior Topographical Surveys Branch. Sectional Maps. Portion of Saskatoon Sheet Sectional Map #215.
1922 A rail The CN junction is located on SE 24-36-6 W3 according to Bill Barry. A branch line runs through Section 23, township 36 Range 6 West of the Third meridian.
1924Map Rand McNally Map excerpt This map shows the “Old Bone Trail.” This trail was used by ox and red river cart or horse and buggy in the 19th century. The Old Bone Trail came into use when the Buffalo herds no longer roamed the plains in massive numbers, their bones bleaching dry in the sun. Settlers would try to earn a buck or two, and load up their wagons with the bones traversing the “Old Bone Trail” into the nearest rail station where they would be transported to plants which would then convert the bones to fertilizer. The overlay of the old cart trail on the Rand McNally Map shows how the railways followed the old grade of the trails. Later maps would illustrate how highways followed the grade of the rails. Around this time~ the 1920s, trails began to take their leave from history, and pioneers would utilize the trains for passenger and freight transport.
1960. A green belt for the city starts with Bert Wellman, Saskatoon Planning Department, who walked around Saskatoon’s perimeter choosing high spots of land for scenic beauty. Together with City Planner Bill Graham they worked on parkways and planted trees for the 1960 Circle Drive Parkway at these sites. A green city is envisioned.
“The Richard St. Barb Baker Afforestation Area was established in 1960 to create a green belt around the city. Trees, which act as habitat for local wildlife, were planted in rows to generate a man-made forest.”(World Web.com)
1966. According to Saskatoon’s Historic Building and Sites, the “railroad lines which dominated the landscape of downtown Saskatoon since 1890 were moved by the Canadian National Railways in 1966 to Chappell Siding west of the city. On a 285-acre site, the CN operates the most modern container, express and passenger services over 40 miles of track.”(Clubb. 1973. Note 124)
The CN Chappell yards are located to the north of the Richard St. Barb Baker Afforestation Area. Precisely the park is located at 52°6’6″N 106°45’19″W north off of Cedar Villa Road.
Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Horned Grebe Podiceps Auritus
1972. Planting in reserved lands purchased in 1960 for a tree belt begins in 1972. “A tree belt as a windbreak and to create a sense of enclosure is suggested along the edges of development for all areas which will not expand in the near future. Such a belt can already be considered along the northern boundary of Westview Heights. In conclusion it can be stated that a seemingly overwhelming demand lies ahead, however, through careful timing, programming and design there should be few difficulties. It should be remembered that the city forefathers reserved beautiful parks along the river, others have developed in Kiwanis Park, the University Grounds and numerous treed and landscaped streets. They did so under adverse conditions with a population of 20,000. They gave the city a reputation as the “City Beautiful” and today’s residents should be willing to uphold their tradition.” (Wellman. 1963. P 18)
“The concrete and asphalt jungle, filthy air, and cold, stark angular outlines devoid of greenery, are the main characteristics of the modern metropolis,” writes Kathy Cronkite in Green Survival: War against ecology abuse. Three Saskatoon groups organizing main campaign. Cronkite continues, “Saskatoon’s parks and recreation board has preserved the area of Beaver Creek, Cranberry Flats, and the rifle range as open space to be enjoyed by Saskatoonians in pursuit of passive recreation such as picnics. It has also ventured into a massive project of planting 200,000 trees for local parks on 800 acres of land south of Diefenbaker Park and south of the CNR station. The Green Survival Program is jointly sponsored in North America by the Canadian Nursery Trades Association and the American Association of Nurserymen.” NOTE the rifle range is now referred to as Chief Whitecap Park and off leash recreation area.
An original afforestation tree planter recalls, “I am not too sure of the hierarchy at the time, but I believe Dave Scott was the Superintendent of Parks, and the Assistant at the time was a guy from the Netherlands named Alex Ligtermoet. It was his planting project that ultimately led to me getting out of the park and off the outdoor rinks, and onto the tree crew.
“Anyway, and possibly due to his European roots, it was Alex’s vision to create an urban forest on the edge of Saskatoon. I don’t know how the land was acquired, but the areas planted were adjacent to the CNR railway tracks so I assume that the land was part of the railway’s holdings. The trees were saplings that came in crates from the PFRA Nursery at Indian Head, and Alex had selected a variety of drought tolerant species because the sites would not be irrigated. We started on the east side of the river, just west of the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club, and moved to the west side the following spring.
“The planting machine being towed by the tractor in the picture was purchased specifically for this project. I’m having a tough time remembering my co-workers names, but the tractor driver’s name was Bill. We took turns sitting on the seat of the planter. The boxes were loaded with saplings and a bell would ring to tell you it was time to jam another tree into the furrow, which was done at least 200,000 times over those 2 years. As a matter of fact, I know we got extra trees the second year, so the total number of trees planted is quite a bit higher. The area west of Highway 7 was the last to be planted, and was the sketchiest area even back then. There was a hobo (the precursor to the homeless) encampment in a small bluff of natural trees that made us uncomfortable on occasion. Overall, it is one of the things that I take some pride in and I have always enjoyed traveling over the train overpass on Highway 7 to watch my forest grow – that’s probably the best vantage point to view it.”(Newman, 2016).
Alex Ligtermoet, Assistant Parks Superintendent, in 1972 goes before City Council to have the 660 acres of afforested lands preserved in perpetuity, this was passed by councilors.
1974 “The City of Saskatoon started a unique project for the prairie called Afforestation, or “Man-made Forest.”
“The City Planning Department, in conjunction with the City Parks Division, investigated the possibilities of having an afforestation program aimed at improving the future environment of the city.”
“Initially, future residential areas were examined and the required area for public reserve located, the intention being to plant these future areas of open space so that when the subdivision was developed, there would be mature trees already established …This idea was extended beyond the limits of these future public reserve areas to encompass the remainder of the surrounding land, and in fact, to consider all those lands owned by the City of Saskatoon not presently developed.” (Ligtermoet, 1974)
1976 On June 7, 1976 the Planning and Development Committee prepare the “South Saskatchewan River Corridor Study: Towards a River Edge Authority”. From this an autonomous agency arises upon which both Saskatoon and Corman Park agree to implement the report.
1979 “The Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area south of the CNR station is named in honour of Dr. Richard St. Barbe Baker who received an honourary Doctor of Laws from the University of Saskatchewan. St. Barbe was an internationally known forestry advisor and conservationist who attended the University of Saskatchewan in 1910 and homesteaded near Beaver Creek. The trail marker and dedication were co-sponsored by Meewasin Valley Authority and the Saskatoon Baha’i community.” (White, 2014).
At this same time George Genereux urban regional park received its name honouring Saskatoon resident, George Genereux, the 1952 Olympic Games Gold Medalist at Helsinki, Finland. The name George Genereux has been assumed by a pocket park elsewhere in Saskatoon, and the title no longer officially designates this afforestation area.
The “West Swale” as described by Golder Associates is a low lying wetlands area which has its confluence at the South Saskatchewan River. The West Swale – its wetlands and surrounding environment does have a congruency with the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area.
Moriyama’s Meewasin Valley Project 100-Year Conceptual Master Plan is submitted by Raymond Moriyama Architects and Planners. Moriyama’s report includes the river valley of the South Saskatchewan River and also rural lands adjacent to the natural drainage systems feeding into the South Saskatchewan River.
The core concept of Moriyama’s plan was that this is indeed a unique land with a unique people, the objective is balance. The Meewasin Valley Authority fundamental values are;
1/ Nature conservancy.
2/ The improvement of water quality and a reduction of pollution
3/ The need for increased education and research opportunities
4/ An enhancement between rural and urban inter-relationships and users.
5/ An improvement of recreational opportunities
6/ The moving forward on cultural aspects in the area.
“The Meewasin Valley Authority (Meewasin) was formed in 1979 to act as an agent of the City, the University, and the Province of Saskatchewan to ensure a healthy and vibrant river valley, with a balance between human use and conservation. The Meewasin Valley Authority Act (MVA Act) establishes the mandate of Meewasin, its powers, and its jurisdiction, and the Conservation Zone.” According to newspaper accounts of the era, though the afforestation area lands are designated as being within the MVA conservation zone, in the case of the afforestation area only a portion of afforestation lands became managed by the MVA. Not under management by the MVA are those lands inclusive of the Class IV permanent wetlands named “Chappell Marsh” and an approximate description continues as those lands west of Chappell Marsh in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area. Also not under MVA management are all lands within the afforestation area formerly known as George Genereux park. Roughly, the lands which are managed by the MVA are east of “Chappell Marsh” wetlands including the South West off leash recreation area, and the “unnamed afforestation area east of the SW OLRA. Meewasin‘s mandate can be summarized into three mandate areas: conservation, development, and education.
“The teacher, if indeed wise, does not bid you to enter the house of their wisdom, but leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” – Khalil Gibran
“The science of forestry arose from the recognition of a universal need. It embodies the spirit of service to mankind in attempting to provide a means of supplying forever a necessity of life and, in addition, ministering to man’s aesthetic tastes and recreational interests. Besides, the spiritual side of human nature needs the refreshing inspiration which comes from trees and woodlands. If a nations saves its trees, the trees will save the nation. And nations as well as tribes may be brought together in this great movement, based on the ideal of beautifying the world by the cultivation of one of God’s loveliest creatures – the tree.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker.
Clubb, Sally Potter and William Antony S. Sarjeant. (1973) Saskatoon’s Historic Buildings and Sites. A survey and proposals. Saskatoon, Past , Present and Potential No. 1. Saskatoon Environmental Society.
Cronkite, Kathy. “Green Survival: War against ecology abuse. Three Saskatoon groups organizing main campaign.” Saskatoon Star Phoenix. May 10, 1972
Fung, Ka-iu editor. (1999) Atlas of Saskatchewan Celebrating the Millennium Edition 2000-2005. University of Saskatchewan. ISBN 0-88880-387-7. Pages 129, 136-137, 161-162
Golder Associates. Southwest Sector Plan. (2013) City of Saskatoon West/Southwest Sector Natural Area Screening Study. Business & Development – Planning – Long Range Plans – Sector Plans.
Ligtermoet, A.L. Report Afforestation ~ Man Made Forest on the Prairies. City of Saskatoon, January 4, 1974
Please help protect / enhance your afforestation areas, please contact the Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc. (e-mail)
Support the afforestation areas with your donation or membership ($20.00/year). Please donate by paypal using the e-mail friendsafforestation AT gmail.com, or by using e-transfers Please and thank you! Your donation and membership is greatly appreciated. Members e-mail your contact information to be kept up to date!
“St. Barbe’s unique capacity to pass on his enthusiasm to others. . . Many foresters all over the world found their vocations as a result of hearing ‘The Man of the Trees’ speak. I certainly did, but his impact has been much wider than that. Through his global lecture tours, St. Barbe has made millions of people aware of the importance of trees and forests to our planet.” Allan Grainger
“We forget that we owe our existence to the presence of Trees. As far as forest cover goes, we have never been in such a vulnerable position as we are today. The only answer is to plant more Trees – to Plant Trees for Our Lives.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker
“In the words of Henry van Dyke, America’s greatest tree poet,
‘He that planteth a tree is a servant of God;
He provideth a kindness for many generations
And faces that he hath not seen shall bless him.’ ”
Richard St. Barbe Baker
“We are passing through a time of unprecedented destruction of things of the spirit and of the natural order. We have been caught up by personal greed and national competition. The very body of life on this planet is now being threatened by the destruction of earth’s green mantle, the Trees. “~Richard St. Barbe Baker.