Among the rolling grain fields of Manitoba’s Pembina Valley sits an oasis for White-tailed Deer, American Beaver, Red Fox, and countless birds both big and small. The thirty acres of preserved land north-west of Manitou has been developed and maintained by the community to save remnants of the once-vast prairie ecosystem.
Developing a similar project? Click here for the ‘How To’ of Binney Corner was developed. Visit Binney yourself: www.pvcd.ca/binney.html
Making the Binney Corner Nature Preserve
Binney Corner Nature Preserve was established to conserve three important prairie ecosystems: open grassland, aspen forest, and marshland. The land was bought by the Pembina Valley Conservation District (PVCD). Shortly after their purchase, the staff at PVCD decided that the care of the land should be in the hands of the community, and so the Binney Board of Directors was formed.
The board includes six community members from Manitou. PVCD staff are still involved to help find external sources of funding for the projects and Manitoba Conservation Resource Offices also serve as a source of guidance for environmental concerns. The original mandate of the Binney Board of Directors was to keep the preserve in as natural a state as possible. Aside from the planting of a few coniferous trees, this mandate has been upheld.
The Preserve Has a lot to Offer
In addition to the prairie and forests, a tributary of the Mary Jane Creek runs through the preserve. A 100-foot floating boardwalk has been built to bridge the creek. A dock was built as well.
Five short walking trails weave through the preserve offering visitors a chance to explore the prairie ecosystems. The trails are distinguished by different colours for their length and colour coded markers along the way ensure that hikers stay on track. An observation tower for wildlife viewing gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the site.
A trailhead at the entrance to the preserve welcomes visitors and offers the history of the land, and a map of the area. Along the walking trails interpretive signs unearth features of the surrounding environment.
Six ‘Critter Kits’ are available from the PVCD office, enabling school and public visitors to experience critter dipping at the docks in the marsh. The kits include nets, containers, magnifying glasses and identification cards for wetland critters. Binoculars and identification books for the larger animals are also found in the kits.
Binney Preserve is an attraction for local schools and daycares in the Conservation District. The PVCD has arranged to cover the expense of bus transportation for local schools, and if the school is particularly lucky they may have Jake Goertzen as a bus driver — Jake will stay with the group and offer a tour of the preserve. Jake is a member of the Binney Board and can offer a great deal of insight into the preserve for the groups. Students from the Manitou Envirothon teams are highly involved with Binney as it offers them hands on experience in preparation for their annual competition.
Caring for the Environment
With the help of Manitoba Conservation the grassland area of the Binney Preserve underwent a controlled burn one fall. The burn removed dead grasses and kept the bushes and trees from overgrowing the prairie. The majority of the burn was completed in one day, but Envirothon students from Manitou returned with Natural Resource Officers for another day of spot burning with pack-cans.
The only problem that the preserve has run into is the busy beaver. Beavers are given credit for creating the marshland habitat, however in some ways they have become too industrious, causing floods on the preserve and over rural roads. Between disease in the aspen trees and the beavers, the forest has suffered greatly. The Board has taken different measures to control the beaver population including removing the dam, and live trapping. The Binney Board continues to work with a local trapper who successfully controls the beaver population.
Trail and site maintenance is carried out by volunteers using local equipment. Some trails have been built up with shale; however, Board members prefer the mowed trails as this takes less time and money to maintain. The Bord has considered using woodchips but have decided against it as the woodchips could easily be washed away in the spring by flood waters.
In the fall, volunteers remove the dock and boardwalk from the water to avoid ice damage. The docks are stored on the shore during the winter months.
The PVCD and the Binney Board have produced a promotional pamphlet about the site which provides information about the natural environment, the development of Binney and directions to the preserve.
The dock and boardwalk were funded by the Environmental Youth Corp.
Funding for the six Critter Kits came from Enbridge Pipeline Inc. The observation tower was constructed by volunteers and was also funded by Enbridge Pipelines Inc. The Conservation District provided funding for a picnic area and outhouses.
Both the trailhead kiosk and interpretive signs made of lexan were developed locally by the Checker Signs of Morden Manitoba, and the trail sign by Tumbleweed Signs in Winkler. A map of the site was developed by the board.
A Lesson from Binney
Does your community have a similar project? Funding can be accessed through your local Conservation District. If the district does not have the funds of their own to support the project, staff at the district office will help find a possible outside source of funding. Funding partners and sponsors of the Binney Nature Preserve include Pembina Valley Conservation District, Enbridge Pipeline Inc., Environmental Youth Corp, Manitoba Conservation, Critical Wildlife Habitat Program, and Manitoba Water Stewardship.
Check Out Binney Yourself
Directions: Two miles West of Manitou on Highway #3, two miles North on gravel road. The trail is clearly marked along the #3 Highway.
Kathi Furniss, PVCD Administrator
(240) 242-3267 or email@example.com
Kathi sites on the Binney Nature Preserve Board of Directors and is employed by the Pembina Valley Conservation District.