Enhancements planned for Assiniboine Forest meant to ‘protect what’s there’

The Charleswood branch of Winnipeg’s Rotary Club is looking at ways it can enhance the Assiniboine Forest for the thousands of people that visit, while working to maintain its natural state.

The club announced on Tuesday it’s planning a number of new features for the forest, including a new parking lot, an interpretive centre, washrooms and new, wheelchair accessible trails.

The proposed upgrades come after the club commissioned a study of the forest in 2017, which found that more than 170,000 people walk, bike, ski and run through the forest every year.

“With all that traffic, it can be devastating to the forest and we want to keep it in a natural state. So we’re also looking at ways that we can protect what’s there,” said Jack Wilson, the chair of the project.

“We need to do things to try and ensure that we do preserve the forest for our children and our grandchildren.”

A 2017 study found more than 170,000 people use the Assiniboine Forest annually. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The proposed enhancements, which the Rotary Club developed with the City of Winnipeg’s naturalist office, will cost approximately $800,000.

The club is fundraising this year to make the changes possible, but is hopeful the city will kick in some money.

A spokesperson said the city has committed $150,000 through its land dedication reserve fund and is meeting regularly with representatives of the Rotary Club and Assiniboine Forest during the planning and fundraising stages, with the expectation it will remain involved “throughout the project development and implementation.”

Cross country ski trails are possible enhancements planned for the Assiniboine Forest. (Tedi Gilmartin/CBC)

One planned enhancements involves building a parking lot on the east side of the forest.

Wilson says the only parking lot on Grant Avenue is often full, and visitors park on Chalfont Street and sometimes down Taylor Avenue, which can be challenging for people who live in the area.

New signage, cross-country ski trails and an interpretive centre will hopefully draw students from the neighbourhood to learn more about the environment, Wilson said.