The Discovery Nature Sanctuary’s boundaries will be shifting and it will be receiving additional funding from the city pending a land sale.
“This is huge,” Discovery Nature Sanctuary committee chair Paul Goossen said. “We have been eyeing the property for a while already and now with this official announcement, we have a tremendous opportunity to expand the sanctuary not only for wildlife but also for visitors to come and enjoy the place.”
Two businesses in the industrial area approached the City of Winkler to expand their properties. Two chunks of property will be taken from the sanctuary to accommodate the requests, one from the south side and one from the west.
In exchange, the city will be designating property on the north side of the sanctuary (reaching to Highway 14) as part of Discovery Nature Sanctuary.
“One of the things that we are excited about is where we can have nature and industry working together and being side by side and complementing each other,” Mayor Martin Harder said. “We’re excited to see that happen, we’re excited to see what can take place and I think over the next year or two you’ll see that come together to be much more, even than it is today.”
The entrance to the sanctuary will be moving to Highway 14 with access off of Circle K Drive.
The pollinator garden, which was located on land that will be lost, has been moved to a different space. Committee treasurer Margaret Klassen said they are still working on transplanting the flowers.
Around 147 newly planted trees will also have to be moved, but Klassen said eventually it will be worth it.
“That’s going to be huge because it’s not going to be a one day affair when you’re transplanting that amount of trees,” Klassen said. “It’s a pain, but it’s going to be a blessing.”
Harder said the city will also be taking the funds they receive from the land sales and reinvesting into the sanctuary. He said the aim is to make the sanctuary like Winkler’s version of Oak Hammock Marsh.
“There are communities that spend decades trying to get this put together,” he said. “It’s so beautiful to see that industry and nature come together.”
“I think we caught the vision of what it could be… what it can be for the City of Winkler and the entire region as far as another pillar of the community that people will want to come and see,” he added.
Harder estimated that between $300,000 and $350,000 will be going to the nature sanctuary.
“Community is more than bricks and mortar,” he said. “Community is a lifestyle, and so therefore this is another piece of the puzzle that brings lifestyle to our community and attracts people to come here.”
Goossen said the committee will be getting together to decide how to use some of the funds. He said signage remains one of their top priorities.
“The possibilities are great,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the community, it’s going to be great for the school division, for tourists and folks that just want to get away from it all and take a walk around the sanctuary and enjoy their time here.”
Goossen said it’s great to see the support the sanctuary has received from the community. “The amount of work that has been done since June of 2017 is just incredible,” he said. “To think of the individuals that have helped come out… even the high schools that have come out to help with the invasive species management, the businesses that have donated or provided in-kind.”
Discovery Nature Sanctuary board members held a thank-you gathering at the sanctuary on Sept. 5 to thank donors for their support and announce the development.
“We just thought it would be an easy way to say thank you to the businesses and the City of Winkler for all the donations that we have received for the sanctuary and an appreciation of what has happened,” Klassen said.
“We are very grateful to the business community,” Goossen added. “We just so enjoy watching the community come here and enjoy the sanctuary itself. It is very gratifying to see that.”
As part of their community investments, Access Credit Union donated $10,000 to the sanctuary at the event.
Thanks to all the donations, Klassen said the sanctuary has enough money to build their outdoor classroom and add a couple picnic tables.