ENCHANTED HEALING OASIS (ECHO)
Enchanted Healing Oasis (ECHO) is a 47-acre, off-grid property located southeast of Portage la Prairie, and managed by Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival Inc.
Formerly a tree nursery and research site, approximately 18 acres of the property is an afforested zone, having been reclaimed from agricultural practices 30 years ago. Afforestation is a process in which an area of land that was never previously forested - in this case, farmland - is transformed into a forest ecosystem.
Today, ECHO is continuing to become a biodiverse ecosystem, boasting areas of not only forest, but also wetland, grassland, and sustainably managed farmland. Interestingly, the site is home to dozens of foreign tree species from different regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including Eastern and Western Canada, Austria, China, Japan, Scandinavia, Russia, and the contiguous United States. Currently under study are the relationships between these non-native species and the many native tree species that inhabit the site, as forest growth naturally progresses. This diverse tree community supports an array of animals, fungi, microbes, and other plant species. ECHO was officially designated as a "Certified Wildlife Friendly Habitat" by the Canadian Wildlife Federation on October 14, 2016.
Aside from its unique ecological and environmental importance, ECHO is currently being transformed into a natural, healing, sacred space for people to connect with each other and with nature on a deep level. Indigenous ceremonies and cultural events for all peoples are held, and will continue to be held on the site. The potential sociocultural and recreational purposes of this property are abundant, from spiritual gatherings to cross-country skiing. As further plans for ECHO are still in the works, the non-profit Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival Inc. continues to work toward a sustainable future for the site.