The Lessons from the Land Trail in the community of Clearwater is a pleasant 2.3 km (1.4 mi.) walk through an amazingly scenic valley. It takes about one hour at a leisurely pace and there are benches at each stop. Trail guides are available, which include stories and information derived from locals’ lessons learned living alongside this natural treasure.
View Lessons from the Land Trail in a larger map
The Harvest Moon Society, together with the community of Clearwater, developed the “Lessons From the Land” interpretive trail. Work on the trail began in 2006 when the society secured funding from the Manitoba Heritage Grants Program. The trail focuses on sustainable land use and showcases the value of maintaining healthy ecosystems. It was developed to serve as an eco-tourism destination as well as provide recreational opportunities for local and surrounding communities.
Through the vision of Alexis Knispel, a member of the Harvest Moon Society, with local elder Roy McLaren, the seed was nurtured for the development of this trail. Alexis was working on her doctoral degree in environmental sciences, with a special interest in prairie ecology. After meeting local resident Roy McLaren, it was clear to Alexis that she could only offer a partial view of the Valley. Alexis had an academic understanding of the environment, but Roy offered to share the history of the environment and community, the essential story of the Valley.
The changes in the Cypress Creek are particularly important to Roy. The creek that runs around the town and through the McLaren property is today no more than a trickle of what it once was. Roy wants more people to understand how the creek has been altered by human activities.
Roy’s passion lies in telling the story of the land and the environmental changes that he has witnessed over the years. By people taking the hiking trail, he hopes that they will see the direction land management has taken in the past and the future direction we should be taking. It is a history unknown to many, and Roy hopes that through education, people will become aware of the problems and work towards ways of fixing them.
Creating the Trail
The trail was designed by Sherry Dangerfield, a professional interpretive planner. The narrative text for the trail brochure was developed in consultation with Sherry, the Harvest Moon Society and the community of Clearwater. The original trail was cut by volunteers from the Harvest Moon Society and help from the Pembina Valley Conservation District.
Two beautiful structures were designed and built for the trail by an Architectural Studio from the University of Manitoba. In the fall of 2007, fourteen Architecture students, along with help of community members, carefully de-constructed the “Crystal River” one-room school house; 80% of the original materials were reclaimed. The students took the next several months planning designs while consulting with the community. The results are a beautiful arched-truss pedestrian bridge that spans a washout which drains into the creek during spring thaw and a lookout platform that is nestled on the edge of the trail’s riparian forest.
The trail is composed of nine stops, each with a theme.
Stop #1 overlooks the Cypress Creek and is entitled “Singing Cradle Songs”. Based in the knowledge that rivers are timeless, it is said that their music has sung the cradlesongs of human civilization on every continent. Clearwater, like many rural communities, was settled along the Cypress Creek, once called Long River. Before the settlers came, the First Nations people had used the creek as a travel route and source of food and water.
Stop #2 – “Change” follows the creek west and gives visitors a view of the offsite water system on the north bank. The creek has been slowly silted up over the years and the deep pools of water Roy talked about have virtually disappeared.
Stop #3 – “Sharing” is a beautiful meadow-like area where the pedestrian bridge is situated. It lends itself to a quiet place for a picnic or critter dipping in the creek.
Stop #4 – “More Than We Know” After a good hike up and out of the valley we enter the “Riparian Forest”. The Outlook platform is a great place to catch your breath after the climb. This, and other forests like it, is an important part of a healthy rural landscape. They control erosion and provide structure for the creek channel, maintain water quality by filtering sediments, help groundwater recharge and reduce greenhouse gases.
Stop #5 – “Looking back” You have reached the farthest point in the trail and from this vantage can see where the trail started and the valley below.
Stop #6 – “Feeding the World” The trail winds back southward between the valley and a productive agricultural field, reminding us of the relationship these two areas have.
Stop #7 – “Take Time for Community” – We have arrived at the northwest corner of the Clearwater Sports grounds. The ballpark is a testament to the community spirit of the town as they have hosted 60 July 1st annually.
Stops #8 & #9 “Feed Yourself First” Where does our food come from? As you have walked the trail, you may have sampled some raspberries, saskatoons or maybe even high-bush cranberries. At this point we hope trail walkers will reflect on food and food production.
The trail is dedicated to the memory of Pte. Lane Watkins, a peacemaker who died in Afghanistan during the creation of the trail. Lane was raised in Clearwater, loved the outdoors, playing ball, hunting and fishing. Lane, along with generations of Clearwater children, spent endless hours down at the creek exploring and gaining an appreciation for nature.
The trail is a component of the Harvest Moon Society’s Learning Centre and is intended to provide visitors and local residents encounters with the rural history and changes on the land in the past 150 years. Guided tours can be arranged by calling the Centre at (204) 873-3858. Self-guided trail brochures are available in the Centre, at Clearwater Junction Restaurant, and on the “Lessons from the Land” sign just outside the curling rink.
—Compiled by Jo-Lene Gardiner