Weaving together youth and nature

By Jeannine Johnstone, Stewardship Coordinator

Since July 2018, SPES’s Youth4Nature-StanleyPark program has been connecting marginalized youth to nature through a hands-on habitat enhancement program that not only restores sections of the Park’s original forest, but introduces inner city youth to the wildlife and native vegetation on their doorstep. Over the past six months, we also invited Indigenous elders and their community members to witness our weaving activities in the Park: converting native and invasive plants into useful objects like fencing for our habitat enhancement sites in the Park.

A fence woven from red osier dogwood surrounds a newly enhanced
riparian site along Lost Lagoon. (Photo: Jeannine Johnstone/SPES)

With the help and initiative of Starla Bob and the openness of Sharon Kallis and her team of weaving instructors (EartHand Gleaners) we were able to successfully incorporate Indigenous elders and community members as witnesses of the work we did while weaving – an activity with much cultural significance among a variety of Indigenous communities. Within this, SPES began to incorporate the traditional blanketing ceremony to welcome the witnesses to the program. This has helped us to build deeper and stronger connections within the indigenous community and helped us to begin to work with groups like the Red Fox Healthy Living Society, a non-profit Society and Charity that serves Indigenous and inner-city children, youth and families in the Lower Mainland.

Youth weavers display their invasive ivy baskets. Indigenous elder Robert Yelton (second from left) witnessed the weaving project. (Photo: Jeannine Johnstone/SPES)

This project also was involved in a long-term restoration project along the Southwest shore of Lost Lagoon. This site was once overgrown with Himalayan blackberry and many other species. The restoration of this site has been forwarded by the work of all the groups who have come out – made possible by the Youth4Nature grant from the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Grant fund. EcoStewards and private stewardship groups worked to remove invasive plants and helped with the re planting of native plant species.

Youth remove invasive Himalayan blackberry at Lost Lagoon. (Photo: SPES)

The weaving program worked to construct raised beds and a fence with Red osier dogwood cuttings, much of which has taken root and is now growing. These dogwood plants are helping to quickly fill in the area with native plants which helps with reducing the regrowth of invasive plants, reduces foot traffic which allows other plants to grow and makes the space more attractive to birds by creating habitat.