Two ecologically-minded projects put water at the centre of the sesquicentennial story

An important part of marking Canada’s 150th is paying tribute to something that’s been here a lot, lot longer—the Earth. Among many other priorities, the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th is supporting a wave of ecologically-minded community projects, two of which focus specifically on taking care of our planet’s water.

Since Valentine’s Day of this year, people of all ages living near Red Deer, Alberta have been writing love letters to their favourite rivers and lakes. This collective outpouring of affection for these bodies of water didn’t just happen coincidentally, of course—it was all part of a plan by the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance (RDRWA) to create a large-scale work of art for the organization’s Earth Day celebration on April 22nd. “This activity is important, because people will protect what they love,” says the non-profit’s Executive Director Jeff Hanger.  As one of Alberta’s 11 Watershed Planning and Advising Councils, RDRWA researches and disseminates information to promote the good use and proper management of water by governments and citizens alike.

Entitled “Splash: Celebrating water for Canada’s 150th,” the event takes place at a literal intersection of history and water—Fort Normandeau—which is located at the site previously used by First Nations and Métis people as a gateway between northern and southern Alberta. Beyond the love letters, the community project near that river crossing point will also feature music, a BBQ and a “living library,” where people can borrow a storyteller from a diverse range of backgrounds. “We’ll have Métis storytellers, local fishing experts, naturalists, and many others,” says Jeff. “And they’ll share personal stories about their lives and their relationship with water.”

Another ecological project supported through the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th—The Great Fundy Coastal Cleanup—has already been going on for the last 15 years. The project, organized by the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, engages local volunteers to spend a day collecting marine debris washed up along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Everything collected is recorded and the data is then used to help reduce such lost items in the future. “It’s a gentle message to the fishing industry to stop polluting oceans as much as they can,” says the Trust’s Executive Director Renata Woodward. “And they actually come out with us, because they too are concerned with what we’re finding on our Nature Preserves.”

Occurring this year on July 15th (with a July 16 rain date), The Great Coastal Cleanup initially focused on one site per year, but for the last two years, the Trust has partnered with more than a dozen non-profit and marine industry partners to expand the event to fifteen different sites. Last year, more than 150 volunteers collected 300 garbage bags of debris, which including huge pieces of styrofoam, fishing nets, rope, buoys, elastic bands for lobsters, toilets, tires and Barbie legs. “We even found entire docks, and small houses,” says Renata.

The day is not all work and no play, of course. Volunteers will be invited to hike a new trail at Blacks Harbour, which will end with food and a celebration of a day spent being good stewards to our collective home.

Photo credit: James Mann, Flickr

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