Terry Tayler, a long-time resident of Renfrew-Collingwood and a founding member of Still Moon Arts, and Chitha Manoranjan, a Windermere Secondary alum and Still Moon Arts’ Youth Engagement Coordinator, were both invited to share their experiences with the ravine. In their talks, the transformative journey of Renfrew Ravine was brought to light.
It was in the 1990s and early 2000s when Terry Tayler, who was associated with Collingwood Neighbourhood House, began to spearhead the stewarding of the ravine. The overwhelming consensus from the community at the time was that everyone wanted it to remain a natural space and for it to thrive as a healthy ecosystem coexisting in the urban bustle. Biannual garbage clean-ups with local community groups and individuals were initiated to clear the years of accumulated garbage. Initially, several dumpsters were filled at each clean-up, but each subsequent clean-up each year saw fewer dumpsters. Slowly but surely, the community’s mindset about the ravine was changing, and the vision of those originally surveyed community members was starting to materialize. Part of this can be attributed by the work of the Still Creek Stewardship Society and Still Moon’s Carmen Rosen when she moved into the neighbourhood. This work was essential in engaging the community with the ravine and re-establishing it as an environmentally centered community space.
In Chitha’s talk, we saw how the work of the pioneering team allowed for a generational shift in knowledge and stewarding, as students from Windermere Secondary School in the 2000s began to take on a large role in the ecological restoration of the site. As we heard, volunteering in the ravine began as just something you had to do as a Leadership student, but for many students, it became this opportunity to express their wonder and curiosity of nature with their friends. Without hesitation, students would grab shovels to tackle the invasive blackberries and explore the ravine for what seemed like hours, but in reality only saw the students move up the ravine a couple of streets. Experiences like these have kept working in the ravine endearing, and have influenced Windermere graduates to pursue studies and careers in ecosystem design, consultation, and restoration.
Today, a new generation of youth are continuing a now traditional experience working in the ravine previously established by the early stewards in the ‘90s. During the ravine tour, participants were quickly able to identify some sites that they have worked on, such as the ivy-woven bionetting site by the Skytrain station and the newly planted pollinator gardens beside the labyrinth. Following the tour of the ravine, one of the youth participants commented that every time she has a ravine walk, it still never gets boring and there’s an opportunity to learn something new each time. And as another youth noted, the stories shared by Terry and Chitha were both different, but connected a shared passion for the ravine. With that, it’s exciting to see how the next generation of youth will continue to build on the history of the Renfrew Ravine.
Stay tuned as the youth stewardship committee continues our monthly activities! We will be taking a closer look at invasive species of the ravine for the month of June.