Fort McMurray runners leave a green footprint in wildfire razed forests

For the first time in the Fort McMurray Marathon's six-year history every runner who completes the course Sunday will receive a tree sapling that they can go home and plant.

More than 500 saplings will be distributed to runners in the 2018 Fort McMurray marathon

The Fort McMurray Marathon hopes to create a green legacy for years to come. (Fort McMurray Marathon / One Wolf Photography)

Regrowing burned areas of Fort McMurray's boreal forest will be more of a marathon than a sprint.

And the community's marathon race committee is running with that idea.

More than two years after the May 2016 wildfire, race organizers hope to create a green legacy along community trails, which make up a significant portion of the course.

For the first time in the race's six-year history, every runner who finishes Sunday's race will receive a tree sapling to plant.

WATCH: 'Definitely some emotions when you go through there'

CBC News Edmonton

3 years ago
Borrey Kim, a trail runner who often wanders off the beaten path, has seen the effects of the rampaging flames but also the regrowth in Fort McMurray’s forest. The 2016 wildfire is estimated to have devoured over 700,000 hectares of forest that’ll take years to regenerate. The Fort McMurray Marathon hopes to participate in the regeneration by handing out saplings. VIDEOGRAPHER & EDITOR: David Thurton 1:42

Fort McMurray Marathon chair Kelsey Stefanizyn said they hope to distribute more than 550 small white spruce trees.

"We really wanted to give ourselves the mandate to be greener," Stefanizyn said. "That tree is just one extra token that can help us have a positive impact."

The 2016 wildfire is estimated to have burned through over 700,000 hectares of forest.

More than half of the 42-kilometre race course winds through the woods.
These are the saplings marathon organizers will distribute at Sunday's race. (David Thurton/ CBC)

In the time since the fire, some trails have been lost to erosion, said runner Borrey Kim. Others have become overgrown because runners tend to avoid areas with charred and fallen trees.

"There's definitely some emotions when you go through there," he said. "Especially if you go through a part where you do witness the aftermath of that fire."

Over the last two years, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and other organizations have embarked on a tree removal and replanting program, in hopes the forests and nature lovers will return.

In a small way, marathon organizers hope to help with those replanting efforts.

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 


David Thurton is a national reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He's worked for CBC in Fort McMurray, the Maritimes and in Canada's Arctic.