By Medicine Hat News on October 2, 2017.
Environmental Reserves (ER) and natural areas account for approximately 1,530 hectares of land under the City’s Parks and Recreation department. Our community’s ERs are composed of native prairie grasslands, riparian areas and wetlands. These ERs are characteristic of Medicine Hat and its unique desert climate and are of significant environmental, economic, and social value.
These ecosystems compiled of tall bunch grasses, sage bushes and native flowers are extremely unique making them a focal point for outdoorsmen, recreational users and scholars alike. The strong root structures of prairie fescues and other bunch grasses aid in retaining moisture and increasing stability in our delicate soils, a task especially important during hot southern Alberta summers which are prone to drought and wind erosion. During times of high rainfall the grasses act as Nature’s filtration system, removing debris and unwarranted items before collectively reaching our natural waterbodies and their tributaries. Urban wildlife depends on the ER lands as a means of transportation and shelter. The natural areas provide a corridor through our urban jungle allowing wildlife to move and maintain viable populations.
Environmental Reserves are a necessity for connecting urban populations with nature and provide three levels of engagement: viewing nature from a distance, being in the presence of nature and actively involving oneself in nature (Shultis and Hvengaard, 2016).
Environmental Reserves within the City of Medicine Hat accommodate all levels for the general public to enjoy. Whether it is savoring a cup of coffee strolling along the river, riding your bike along a trail or hiking and birding in the coulees, an escape to nature is effortless.
Should you wish to learn more about this fascinating subject the Medicine Hat Interpretive Program, located at the Nature Centre in Police Point Park, offers several programs throughout the year including wetland ecosystems, South Saskatchewan River ecology and nature walks throughout the park area.
The City of Medicine Hat kindly reminds citizens to please be conscious stewards of our natural environment and refrain from altering these ecosystems in any way (i.e., mowing, mulching, burning, chemical applications). These areas are to be considered natural and decreased anthropogenic involvement allows for natural processes to occur. For example, multi-use trails are strategically placed within ERs to decrease the environmental impact created by multiple “foot trails”. Also, downed tree branches are left to decompose, adding essential nutrients to the soil bed, and providing shelter for wildlife. Our city is fortunate to have such a unique and rare landscape in our backyard for all to enjoy.
Doug Knowles is a Parks Technician with the City of Medicine Hat.
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