Photo: Save our Seine River Environment Board member Wilma Sotas paddles down the river with Steve Lambert.
Caregivers of the river help the Seine remain clean and beautiful.
A calm and scenic 26 kilometre waterway, the Seine River flows from the Red River Floodway, through St. Vital and St. Boniface, before merging into the Red River. It’s an urban oasis that’s home to diverse plants and animals, but pollution, runoff and development are constant concerns. Thankfully, Save Our Seine River Environment – and the committed community volunteers who run it – are working hard to keep it beautiful.
The Seine River may not enjoy the name recognition of the Red or Assiniboine rivers, but nearby residents like Wilma Sotas consider it to be one of the city’s hidden gems.
“I’ve lived in a variety of places in the city,” Ms. Sotas says. “When I moved onto the Seine River, I was taken by the beauty of the area.”
Ms. Sotas now serves on the Board of Directors and coordinates volunteers for Save Our Seine River Environment; a charity working to protect, restore, and educate the public about the Seine River and its surrounding environment.
“It is a very winding, meandering river, so its level is generally shallower than the Assiniboine and Red, which are much more powerful and fast-moving,” says Michele Kading, Executive Director of Save Our Seine. “It’s also a really good place to get your first taste of being in a canoe or a kayak in a very safe and welcoming environment.”
Volunteers have been the driving force behind Save Our Seine since its beginning in 1990 when, seeing the algae, garbage and debris floating in the river, nearby residents organized to help keep the river clean. These yearly cleanups continue to this day, and Ms. Sotas noted how the community formed through the organization inspires its volunteers.
“Sometimes volunteers are just along the pathway, cleaning litter on their own,” Ms. Sotas says. “[It’s] a partnership of community, without asking.”
But even after more than 25 years of annual cleanups, pollution remains an issue for the Seine River.
“Whether it’s shopping carts, old tires, vehicles, mattresses, furniture… You name it, people toss it into the river and it’s there until someone comes along to remove it,” Ms. Kading says.
Development near the river also disrupts the natural environment, reducing biodiversity, opening the door to invasive weeds, and leading to water quality issues. Because rainwater from lawns and streets drains directly through underground pipes, the water doesn’t have a chance to be naturally cleansed before it drains into rivers like the Seine.
To combat these challenges, Save Our Seine designed its Seine River Enhancement Project around four key objectives: habitat restoration and forest protection, public awareness and education, facilitating its annual river cleanups, and water quality protection.
The rain garden Save Our Seine installed near the intersection of Fermor Ave. and St. Anne’s Rd is one way in which it’s naturally protecting the water quality.
“Some of the storm water off of the Superstore parking lot and Fermor Ave. is directed into this rain garden,” Ms. Kading says. “It was planted with native species that would help clean the pollutants out of the water before the water continued down the storm drain.”
A Winnipeg Foundation grant supported the highest priority elements of the Enhancement Project and provided extra help to ensure proper maintenance of the plants, in light of this year’s dry summer.
“We had planned ahead that we might need someone in addition to our volunteers to be able to keep the plants alive and allow them to get well established,” Ms. Kading says. “We hired a Greenway gardener who worked on the rain garden component and created a shrub bed at another location near the Hindu Temple on St. Anne’s.”
The Foundation’s grant was also key to Save Our Seine producing a hydrology map, furthering its progress on new interpretive signage, and purchasing a new truck to help with its river cleanups.
“It’s difficult to find a vehicle that will seat five adults and have a lot of space for stuff,” says Ms. Kading, adding that the truck is used to transport its rowboat, safety gear, paddles, tools and debris from the river.
“We don’t have an office, so our vehicle is Save Our Seine’s office in the summer months when our team is using it.”
Ms. Sotas hopes the Save Our Seine’s efforts will lead to more people becoming aware of, and seeing the potential in the Seine River.
“It is a beautiful river that is worth enhancing and protecting.”
To learn more about Save Our Seine, visit saveourseine.com.
A slow and winding river
The Seine runs from the Red River Floodway, through St. Vital and St. Boniface, before ending at the Red River in downtown Winnipeg.
Save our Seine’s River Enhancement Project improved the urban Seine River and its associated Greenway. It included different projects that combat unfiltered water from running directly into the river, amongst other things.
Click on each location to see the project description.
This story is featured in the Fall 2018 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.