The Outreach Assistants Lend a Helping Hand!

Restoring flood-damaged trails isn’t an easy task, so on May 10th the OWC Outreach Team joined forces with the Alberta Environment and Parks crew to help out. It was a great day of learning and the extra hands were greatly appreciated!

OWC staff met up with the Backcountry Trail Flood Rehabilitation team early Tuesday morning in Blairmore. After a quick orientation, trucks were loaded with gear and the we proceeded to a restoration site west of Lynx Creek Recreation Area.

 Thomas and Jordan put the finishing touches on bank-side willow staking.

Thomas and Jordan put the finishing touches on bank-side willow staking.

The flood of 2013 impacted Albertans in a number of ways. One of the lesser-known aspects of this catastrophe was the degradation of recreational trails in the backcountry. An unprecedented amount of precipitation fell in a very short time and the resulting deluge caused serious bank erosion as creeks and tributaries found new paths through the valleys. Access to cherished natural areas was compromised for area user groups including hikers, equestrians, and ATV enthusiasts.

 The aftermath of the 2013 flood continues to erode stream banks in the backcountry.

The aftermath of the 2013 flood continues to erode stream banks in the backcountry.

In an effort to help with the rehabilitation process, our first job was to plant willow cuttings in the most sensitive riparian areas and let nature do its thing. Due to the fast-growing nature of willows, the stream banks will again be stabilized and wildlife will be provided with necessary protective cover. It was fun to get our hands dirty and give these affected areas a head start!

 It seems Nicola has been working out!

It seems Nicola has been working out!

Afterwards, the team headed southeast to a section of trail that had been washed out by the flood. Deadfall was collected on-site and scattered across the recently reclaimed trail. With time this will provide soil stabilization and potential habitat for all sorts of woodland creatures. This is very important in the reclamation process, and allowed the OWC team to perfect their log-tossing skills!

In 2011, the OWC released its Integrated Watershed Management Plan, focusing on eight specific goals. Goal three aims to manage and protect the integrity of headwaters and source waters. These areas provide us with 90% of our accessible water and must be treated with respect. However, recreation is an essential part of who we are as Albertans, and ensuring access to explore our headwaters is also important. When managed properly, we can ensure resilient aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial ecosystems that can be enjoyed by everyone!

Being able to support the BTFR crew in their efforts was an amazing opportunity, and we encourage everyone to get involved. Volunteer opportunities are a great way to experience the backcountry in a positive and constructive way! Find out more through the links below:

Backcountry Flood Rehabilitation Program

Oldman Watershed Council

Check out the rest of our photos on Flickr!