The Forks Prairie Garden
Forks Prairie Garden, Manitoba (Photo by NCC)
Just a stone's throw from the pulsing heart of the City of Winnipeg, at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, lies the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) Forks Prairie Garden project. This project has become NCC's most frequently visited project in Manitoba, with an estimated 4 million visitors passing through annually.
For many, this encounter with more than 75 native plant species in the half-acre garden will be their only opportunity to experience tall grass prairie. It's also a living reminder to Manitobans of their prairie heritage.
Only a low stone wall separates beds of bergamot, gaillardia and harebell from the steady flow of passing motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. Along one side of the carefully tended plots of native wildflowers and grasses, diners satisfy their appetites on lush salads, burgers and fresh pasta.
The scene is a far cry from the wilderness that once covered this bustling downtown crossroads. But there is something highly appropriate about the juxtaposition of big bluestem and switchgrass, western red lily, Indian breadroot and prairie crocus with the rhythms of travel and commerce: the Forks were a meeting place for aboriginal peoples centuries before the city arose on the riverbanks.
The Forks Prairie Garden, supported by NCC and several other conservation partners, is a quietly effective reminder of modern Winnipeg's prairie roots.
NCC and the Forks Renewal Corporation have also joined forces to create educational components to the site, which include identification signage for plants and interpretive touch-screen technology kiosks to teach visitors about the ecological importance of the endangered tall grass prairie ecosystem, the Forks Prairie Garden and other great natural places in Manitoba.