The art is in the creature

spruce grouse ©Celes Davar

Spruce Grouse ©2013 Celes Davar

One of my greatest joys living at Riding Mountain National Park is to head out for some “slow travel”, where I drive slowly to a random location, get out of my car and just slowly listen, walk, or snowshoe. Riding Mountain National Park  is a large national park where things become so much clearer in the months between November and April. It may be that you get to see tracks in the snow from wolves, grouse, or lynx – tracks you would never notice at other times of the year. A bird on a branch. A raven calls. Things seem to be more intense, quiet, and there are less distractions. It is a wonderfully rejuvenative time of year. Yesterday, I had a quiet encounter with a spruce grouse. The male is colourful. It’s a bird that lives in boreal (coniferous forests). Notice that this one is on a jack pine branch. This bird, as described by Cornell University’s All About Birds site is  the north-eastern species. “Two distinct subspecies of Spruce Grouse exist. “Franklin’s Grouse,” D. c. franklinii, found in the southwestern portion of the range, in the mountains from Alberta southward, has an all black tail with small white spots on the feathers overlying it. The northeastern subspecies, D. c. canadensis, has a rufous tip to the tail and lacks white spots above the tail.”


Occupy Winter & World Snow Day activities in Riding Mountain

Occupy Winter – Jan. 19 & 20, 2013  Occupy Winter- Moon Lake Poster

Join other Canadians and celebrate Occupy Winter – We ♥ Our Fourth Season all across Canada January 19 and 20, 2013. At Riding Mountain National Park, there will be events. PLEASE NOTE: You can CLICK on and download all of the posters on this post at larger size.

LEARN MORE: Interview with Celes Davar about Occupy Winter.

  • January 19, 12:00 Noon   all afternoon at Moon Lake in Riding Mountain National Park
  • January 19, 7:00 PM (Wasagaming picnic shelter behind the Visitor Centre): A special potluck supper and night snowshoe out to Clear Lake to experience the night sky and stars of Riding Mountain’s dark skies with Buzz Crowston. SPECIAL TREAT: Grandview singer-songwriter and Home Routes performer/host Kayla Luky will be on hand to sing a new song dedicated to Occupy Winter.Occupy Winter Evening Program poster
  • January 20, 10 AM – A snowshoe adventure at Mt. Agassiz. Meet at Agassiz Park Lodge, McCreary
  •  January 20, 11 AM – all afternoon. World Snow Day, Wasagaming (Clear Lake) at the Friends of Riding Mountain Learning Centre.

Over 4,000 Canadians have either joined or been invited to take part in Occupy Winter (Facebook Event), and more than 900 people have signed a national petition requesting Parks Canada’s CEO Alan Latourelle and the Minister of the Environment Peter Kent to please consult with Canadians and restore winter services in all national parks. Winter services (the four

th season) were eliminated from Parks Canada operations as a result of the last federal budget.

Occupy Winter is an opportunity to request Parks Canada to:

  1. Reverse the policy shift (2012) that created most national parks as three-season national parks, rather than four season.
  2. Consult Canadians about what we would like to see for winter services at each national park.
  3. Understand and recognize that winter is a distinct season and part of our national identity. We celebrate winter as community, families, and travelers. And, we do that in our national parks.

What can you do?

  • Sign the national petition to Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle and Environment Minister Peter Kent – SIGN THE PETITION to Restore Winter Services and Four Seasons to all national parks.
  • Ask your MP to represent a formal petition from your community to the House of Commons requesting Parks Canada to rescind the three seasons designation.

World Snow Day at WasagamingWhat are the Issues?

Radio Interview (CDKM, Dauphin) with Manitoba’s Celes Davar (who operates who explains what Occupy Winter is about and why Parks Canada’s decisions to shift national parks to three seasons affects us all. This is not good decision-making on the part of Parks Canada.

The following are important aspects of this policy shift that we are asking Parks Canada to specifically assess and take action on:

  1. Parks Canada has created a policy shift, without consultation with Canadians, that is not consistent with how Canadians use and value our national parks in winter. Recommendation: Reverse the decision to establish three season national parks. Establish a consultative process with Canadians across the country and with local stakeholders to determine how best to re-establish winter services in each national park.
  2. Canada is a country that is distinctly northern, has snow, and has a rich and long tradition of cross-country skiing, watching wildlife, snowshoeing, and various winter events and activities in our national parks throughout the winter months. Recommendation: That we use this distinct geographic and market positioning as part of how we promote the Fourth Season (winter) as a time for healthy exercise and lifestyle, winter tourism, appreciation of Canada’s nature and wildness in winter, and active community celebrations of our national parks in winter. The benefits will include new revenues, new marketing opportunities, and a sustainable educational program.
  3. Our national parks are iconic Canadian places for healthy outdoor activity including self-propelled forms of winter activity and recreation (skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring). Recommendation: Establish a core level of park staff and associated operating funds to create, deliver and market winter recreational services, education, interpretation, and winter science and environmental monitoring. Invite this core group of park staff to collaborate with local community tourism businesses and organizations to explore unique ways that each national park can partner to create and deliver these services with community partners. Empower each park manager to establish appropriate funding and staff for developing collaborative strategies with external partners.
  1. Our annual park admission fees include access to trails, facilities, and winter services that Parks Canada has been providing to us. Access to these winter services was included within the calculation of admission fees to each national park for which each park user pays. Recommendation: Continue to include the costs to provide winter services within park admission fees. Additional revenues in winter should be used to help offset budgetary deficits.
  2. It is very important to recognize that winter visitors are very different from summer park visitors. They are people who love winter sports, skiing, snowshoeing, or wildlife viewing. They are some of the strongest supporters of our national parks, and include urban enthusiasts, as well as many residents from surrounding communities next to national parks who frequent winter trails. They advocate for each national park. Winter visitors come in smaller numbers and they come for very different experiences than summer visitors. Recommendation: Because winter offers Parks Canada a different opportunity to market winter as a distinct season, collect revenues, acknowledge local supporters and advocates, and partner with local tourism businesses to offer “the quintessential winter experience in Canada”, include winter as a distinct season of programming and activities for all national parks.

Response requested:

We ask that the CEO for Parks Canada Alan Latourelle, each national park Superintendent, and the Minister of Environment respond to the above petition and the five actions we have identified in consultation with Canadians. We ask that this consultation and revised decision-making be conducted before June 1, 2013, and that Parks Canada communicate their decisions publicly.

My Experience With Nature

Blue-winged teal Riding Mountain National Park

Blue-winged teal swims in marsh pothole

My name is Amanda Walker and I am from Minnedosa Collegiate in Manitoba (Canada) spending the day learning about Earth Rhythms for a Career Preparation course with my school. Today, I had the pleasure to view the nature  and wonderful sights of Riding Mountain National Park. I spent the day with Earth Rhythms president, Celes Davar. This afternoon Celes took me on a wild adventure as we toured the wonderful park, and on our way we were gifted by seeing many of Manitoba’s wildlife citizens. We saw many birds such as “Ring-necked ducks”, “Green-Winged Teals”, “Great Blue Herons”, and Canada Geese, a sight for everyone to enjoy.

Canada goose on nest_Riding Mountain National Park

Female Canada goose hides on nest

Our day made me understand a lot more about nature and appreciate all that beauty Manitoba has to offer. For example, we viewed many of the ponds that surround the park and took time to discover the wildlife among them. I realize that even on a cloudy day in April, Manitoba still has so much to show for itself and that shouldn’t be taken for-granted by anyone; especially those who are honored to live here.

I realized that you can return here many times, seeing wildlife in new places and under different lighting conditions. For example, the evening light on a white-tailed deer feeding in early spring is a site that is quite common within the park.

-By Amanda Walker, Minnedosa Collegiate

Tracks in the snow

When we follow our passions, we leave good tracks!!

We are a group of tourism professionals from Nova Scotia, on a mid-winter Best Practices Mission to Manitoba. While flying in to Winnipeg, we got our first glimpse of the Canadian prairies.

We were welcomed by Celes Davar, from Earth Rhythms, our leader and facilitator for the week. Our first surprise stop was at Constance Popps’ chocolate factory and shop. Constance Popp ChocolatierThere we got to experience Chocolatier Constance’s wonderful chocolate creations, as well as her stories and passions. It was interesting to hear her story on how she left her lucrative job to follow her passion leaving her own footprint.

Imagine wakening all your senses to the cold and sunny Manitoba morning with a fresh layer of snow. After meeting our guide and strapping on our snowshoes, we headed out into Riding Mountain National Park – the only tracks ahead of us were those of elk, rabbits (snowshoe hares) and martens. Our mission was to bring a natural restorative tea to Dale, who was studying the effects of Park Maintenance on local wildlife!  As we experienced making our trails along Moon Lake we could hear the crunch of the snow under our feet as we created new tracks in the fresh snow.

We crossed the bridge where the stream entered the lake, paused for a magical moment to close our eyes and listen to the silence.  Following the stream we soon found a Quinzhee (snow hut). As we were wondering what we were looking at, Dale’s head popped out! Riding Mountain National Park, quinzhee, quinzeeDale is studying the impact of his Park Maintenance job on the Park wildlife. As Dale enjoyed his tea, we crawled in and out of his Quinzhee, truly surprised by the room and the warmth inside! Feeling more comfortable on our snowshoes, we were able to allow ourselves to notice the warmth of the sun and the cute little bunny that ran along side of our tracks!

Blog Post by Sam de Ruyter, Stephen Workman, and Trudi Curley

Participants from the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010

Greg Holden shares his appreciation for 2009 Environmental Award


Greg Holden, Superintendent of Clear Lake Golf Course receives Environmental Award

Greg Holden, Superintendent of Clear Lake Golf Course receives Environmental Award

On June 9th, in Winnipeg, Greg Holden from the Clear Lake Golf Course was awarded the 2009 Manitoba Eco-Network environmental award in the Special Category, recognizing his leadership and commitment to environmental sustainability.  Anne Lindsey, the Executive Director introduced the awards.  Celes Davar shared a few words about why he nominated Greg, and introduced Greg.  

The inscription on the award reads…

“The Manitoba Eco-Network Environmental Award presented to Greg Holden, Given in recognition of significant contributions to the awareness and protection of Manitoba’s environment.  June 9, 2009”

Congratulations Greg…from everyone in this community!

See and listen to Greg’s thoughts and appreciation at the award ceremony in this short video highlight.

Greg Holden receives provincial environmental award


Greg Holden-champion innovator for environmental practices at Clear Lake Golf Course

Greg Holden-champion innovator for environmental practices at Clear Lake Golf Course


The Manitoba Eco-Network is pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 Manitoba Eco-Network Environmental Award.  

Greg Holden is presented with this award June 9, 2009 at the headquarters of the Manitoba Eco-Network in Winnipeg.

Award winners are chosen each year in three categories from amongst nominations submitted by the general public. The award is given “in recognition of significant contributions to the protection and awareness of Manitoba’s environment”. Since 1990, it has been a way for the environmental community to salute the often unsung heroes who do so much to make our world a better place.

This year’s winners are:

  • “Individual” Category: Anders Swanson, cyling and active transportation advocate, nominated by Kevin Miller, co-chair of Bike to the Future;
  • “Group” Category: Organic Food Council of Manitoba, nominated by Anne Lindsey;
  • “Special” Category: Greg Holden, Superintendent of the Clear Lake Golf Course, nominated by Celes Davar, President of Earth Rhythms, Inc.


Greg Holden, Superintendent of the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park is the winner in the “Special” category. Greg was nominated by Celes Davar, of Earth Rhythms, an eco-tourism provider operating in Riding Mountain National Park. Greg has led the operation of the Golf Course and restaurant at Clear Lake for 16 years, transforming it from a conventional pesticide and fertilizer-laden, waste-stream driven course to a model of sustainability, innovation and recycling.

The conversion stems from Greg’s personal commitment to the health of the planet – he has also been a certified organic garlic grower, built his own energy efficient home, and provides sustainability presentations to Riding Mountain National Park area visitors.

Innovative features of this environmental turf management of the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park include:

  • the use of composting toilets and a digester to minimize waste creating a resource for natural fertilization of the course, and eliminating the requirement for 300,000 gallons of groundwater for conventional flushing;
  • use of compost teas and a variety of natural and biological controls for weeds and fungi;
  • over the past several years, diversion of about 10,000 litres of waste cooking oil from area restaurants as a biodiesel source for golf course vehicles and tractors;
  • composting of all kitchen waste, grass clippings and leaf debris for use on the course and in the herb gardens;
  • and use of native species for plantings around the golf course.

As Greg embarks next year on a term as President of the Canadian Golf Course Superintendent’s Association, he will be taking the examples and lessons learned at Clear Lake to a national audience – one that is committed to putting into practice his message of sustainability for this popular sport.


There are several good international references for sustainable golf course management.  Perhaps one of the best is the Royal & Ancient in St. Andrews, Scotland.  They have an entire page on their website dedicated to environmental management and sustainable golf courses.

The R&A is golf’s world rules and development body and organiser of The Open Championship. It operates with the consent of more than 130 national and international, amateur and professional organisations, from over 120 countries and on behalf of an estimated 30 million golfers in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and The Americas (outside the USA and Mexico). The United States Golf Association (USGA) is the game’s governing body in the United States and Mexico.

GEO Industry Forum drives sustainable golf in Europe – Last month (May, 2009), The Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) and its European Golf Partners came together  to consolidate a shared positive vision for sustainable golf, drive forward environmental programmes, and to collectively evaluate progress to date.  The meeting of this ‘Industry Forum’, administered by GEO, represents another milestone in the way in which golf’s strategic leaders are mapping out a future in which golf will be internationally recognised for enhancing environmental quality and human wellbeing.

And, in New Zealand, New Zealand Golf and the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute has published online their Sustainable Golf Course Design Guidelines – very straight forward.

Congratulations Greg!

Stephen Fearing creates memorable evening in Onanole

Stephen Fearing House Concert, Onanole, Manitoba. June 6, 2009     

Stephen Fearing House Concert, Onanole, Manitoba. June 6, 2009

Onanole, Manitoba ( Canada) perched on the southern  boundary of Riding Mountain National Park is certainly receiving its fine share of music.  Last night (June 6, 2009) was a rare delight, in which multiple Juno award-winning Stephen Fearing roared into Onanole, polished up his Linda Manzer-made guitar, put on his nails, and sped us across time and landscape.  From Nashville to Guelph, from Ireland to Newfoundland, and from vocals to instrumentals, this was a night to remember.  Perched on a stool, with about 45 rapt house concert guests eagerly and appreciatively settled in from Brandon, Neepawa, Dauphin and many other local communities, we came to listen to someone who has a passion for excellence in the ways that words and melodies come together.  Just listen to how long and loud the applause is after each song.

To be able to spend a few hours with Stephen Fearing is to be witness to a great songwriter, but it is also a delightful experience to be close to a man who is full of humour and care.  I am sure that the families, the folkies, the young musicians, and the elder musicians who were “in the house” with Stephen Fearing last night will remember this evening.  These songs bring to mind images of riding the rails, traveling the highways, entering the souls and personalities of ordinary people but through the extra-ordinary creative songwriting and musical crafting of Stephen Fearing.  And, we are fiercely happy and proud of this amazing Canadian.  And, thank goodness for the generosity of these artists, who agree to come to our homes, and make themselves accessible to perform.  There is nothing quite like live roots music. 

Audio Interview with Stephen Fearing

Listen to this short audio interview with Stephen (morning of June 7)  between Celes Davar and Stephen, which ends with his playing of a beautiful and haunting new song about a recent event off the coast of Newfoundland


Video highlights from House Concert



Link to the entire House Concert (audio recording)

The house concert is licenced under Creative Commons as an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada Licence. Basically, this means that you are free to listen to it, but not distribute it, modify it, or charge anything for it.  (Please respect this.)

The Stephen Fearing Onanole House Concert (Audio)

Katy Re-discovers Riding Mountain

I live an hour south of Riding Mountain National Park and during the 28 years of my existence I have seriously underutilized it. My name is Katy Singleton and I am an Environmental Science student at Brandon University.  In recent years I’ve travelled to several Canadian locales to experience breathtaking ecosystems and biodiversity, and in general, missed much of the ecological beauty lying virtually on my doorstep.  

Recently I was put in contact with a gentleman by the name of Celes Davar.  Celes along with his wife Sue, own and operate Earth Rhythms, a business providing ecological experiences to groups of people looking for personalized excursions involving nature, art, music, science, and a host of local business people and hobbyists.  How did I not know this business existed?  Celes informed me Earth Rhythms is intentionally low key, advertised mostly by word of mouth and the web, which helps maintain the philosophy of the enterprise, an intimate, personalized taste of what Riding Mountain has to offer.  

I was looking for a summer job and thought Celes may be looking to fill a summer position.  Over various emails and a telephone conversation I discovered several things.  Celes was extremely knowledgeable on environmental policy, initiatives, CO2 emissions and global warming, etc.  He asked me in-depth questions about my personal views and ideas that I had never been asked before and he shared more excitment and passion for the environment then I had seen in a long time.  I began to feel passionate too.

After four years in my program I had misplaced my love for the environment. I knew the importance of promoting a healthy sustainable earth, but my thoughts had become predictable and stale.  I was reading textbooks, writing papers and giving presentations but was no longer connected to what my studies were really about.  

The day I was to meet Celes and Sue in person a friend and I came out to the park early. We brought along the Riding Mountain National Park Trail Guide, ‘Taking to the Trails.’  We started out at Bead Lakes but soon turned back as it’s quite muddy this early in the season.  We travelled to the Brulé Trail and did the full hike as it appeared drier.  ‘Both trails are so different,’ I thought.  Two trails about a ten minute car ride apart and they have such different personalities.  The first trail was heavily treed, mossy, muddy and green, so different from the second dryer, more grassy trail that still displayed the scars of fires long past.  ‘Look what I have been missing,’ I marveled as I walked through the stillness. The forest provided a special kind of quiet, that hushed all thoughts of anything other then where I was right at that moment, I felt my heart rate slow.  The stillness was pervasive yet the forest was teeming with life, birds singing, insects buzzing, but rather than noise it sounded like… music.  

Later my friend and I met with Celes and Sue, and over a wonderful meal spoke about the topics I had been learning in school but rarely discussed.  I left that night with an offer of employment and strange feeling of excitement and peace.  Something had awakened inside me that I hadn’t even realized had fallen asleep.  I day-dream about my next hike, and am excited to discover what I can help Celes and Earth Rhythms accomplish this summer. Whatever my experiences with Riding Mountain National Park over the next few months will be, I know I will remember that feeling in the woods, where I re-discovered the stillness and peace that elude so many of us day to day, and that helped me to remember why I’m here.