In the 1920's and 1930's when our communities and the smelter complex were first established, many trees were cut for fuel and lumber. Trees were cut to make fire breaks, others were burned in forest fires. As production from Flin Flon Mine, and later, other mines increased, so did the amount of sulphur dioxide smoke from the plant. The smoke was harmful to vegetation so the forest was not able to recover. The increasing acidity and metal content of the soil meant that only very few hardy types of plants were able to survive. As the plants died, the thin topsoil washed away.
Our community environment has benefited from the expertise of the late Professor Keith Winterhalder from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, who was one of the key researchers that discovered how crushed limestone could treat acidic soils with high metal content so that plants could thrive again. He discovered that treating our areas in this way could bring about reforestation to our barren area.
The local limestone contains calcium, magnesium, and carbonate. The calcium and magnesium counteract the effects of metals such as copper, zinc, and cadmium while the carbonate neutralizes the acidity of the soil. The wind then does its part to reseed treated areas naturally.
In 1994, Professor Winterhalder established a few small experimental plots in our area. Below is what one of these plots - which he had he treated with limestone - looked like in 2000.
In the early 1990s, Rena Gummerson and later Cathy Hynes of the Creighton /Denare Beach Economic Development Committee contacted Professor Winterhalder to see if he might be interested in helping to set up a re-vegetation program in our area. This resulted in his first visit up here in 1994.
During 1999, Heather Acres met with Professor Winterhalder to discuss the technique and to see the results of his test plots. Inspired by the potential for the Flin Flon & Creighton area and through seeing the change during various trips to Sudbury over the years, she discussed it with Clarence Petterson and together they acquired the resources to launch the program through Flin Flon School Division’s Youth Mentor Program, established a community-based committee, and hired Dr. Dave Price who also serves as co-coordinator along with Heather Acres.