Red Deer’s Maskepetoon Park is growing — with initial help from volunteer tree planters from across Canada.
A crew of 13 students from British Columbia to Atlantic Canada were busy planting the first trees that will eventually extend the wooded park across a grassy bank behind Oswald Close in Oriole Park on Wednesday morning.
The local planting effort was initiated by Cody Mast, a Red Deer native, who now lives in Cremona. He’s among the 16- to 18-year-old volunteers travelling the country to learn from different communities, and to give back, through the Children’s International Summer Villages national Peace Bus tour.
Mast got to choose the volunteer Peace Bus project for his home community, so he picked tree-planting because of his affinity for nature and belief in sustainability. That’s one of four pillars of the Peace Bus program that also focuses on human rights, diversity and conflict resolution.
Mast’s suggestion happened to fit with the City of Red Deer’s plan to create an urban forest between Hwy 2 and Oriole Park.
Increasing Maskepetoon Park is a great way of reducing traffic noise and soil erosion, and boosting natural habitat, said Becky Pasay, a city forestry technician. “We’d also like to create a wind break.”
She added there’ll be less mowing needed, so less money will be spent on maintenance and watering. “It’s also good for wildlife.”
The Peace Bus students only got a start on the project — lots of more volunteer hours will be needed for planting the hundreds of trees and shrubs that will make up the new wooded tract of Maskepetoon Park. “But it’s a good start,” added Pasay.
The youths are travelling from Halifax to Victoria. So far, they have taken in the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, a Quebec indigenous film festival, a Saskatchewan aboriginal cultural centre, a Nova Scotia self-sufficient garden and many other sites.
“It’s been awesome,” said Mast, who’s learned history from the native perspective, as well as about Canada’s spotty human rights record and recent efforts to do better.
The idea of the non-profit program is to empower young people and build their leadership skills by expanding their knowledge of Canada and the issues this county faces, said team leader Alison Steward.
By forming a deeper understanding of individuals from other cultures, the youths are building a greater awareness of how much “these other people are just like us,” she added.