Over the past three years, Greenways Land Trust has been overseeing a project called EcoAction at various sites around Campbell River, working with students in local schools and getting them involved in ecological restoration projects.
That initiative was possible because of a grant the organization received from Environment and Climate Change Canada, and project coordinator Lynette Hornung says it was a great success.
And so the organization re-applied for another round of funding, hoping to move the kids down into our waterways, as well. They were successful with their application and will now launch a Junior Streamkeepers program that will focus on educating kids on the importance of clean water and healthy stream systems.
“Clean freshwater is important to all communities, but there are a few reasons that it’s especially important to Campbell River,” Hornung says. “Campbell River considers itself to be the salmon capital of the world, and all our watercourses are either salmon habitat or connect to salmon habitat. We’re also seeing more high-water events that are increasing erosion and sedimentation in our waterways and negatively impacting our water quality.”
While the physical work of getting the kids’ hands dirty – and wet – won’t start for a little while yet, the background work has already begun.
“We’re starting by identifying and selecting a few sites that are connected with important facets of our waterways and getting the groundwork set, so to speak,” Hornung says. “It takes a little while to reach out to landowners to get a sense of whether they’d like to be part of it, plan out what the various projects will involve – that stuff takes some time. But at some point this fall we’re expecting to get the work with the kids underway.”
That work could be as simple as simply picking up litter along the edge of a stream, “especially plastic waste that we want to be sure we keep out of our water,” Hornung says, “or it could be stream side planting to prevent erosion by stabilizing the banks a little more, or any number of other things. Exactly what we’ll have the kids doing will depend on the site’s needs, as well as what the kids themselves are interested in.”
Josie Simpson, who will be coordinating the next three years of the project, says she’s looking forward to getting the kids excited about helping the planet.
“Basically, when it comes to environmental education initiatives like this, you just want the school groups to feel like they can do something tangible with what they’re learning,” Simpson says. “For them to be able get out and see things they can actually do to make a positive difference in the world is a really great thing.
“It also gives them a sense of connection with the natural world,” Simpson continues. “Hearing them say things like ‘let’s go work on our forest’ is just amazing. They’re taking responsibility and claiming ownership and that’s really important, because it means, hopefully, that the principles of stewardship will stick with them throughout their lives.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with the project – especially local teachers or leaders of other childrens’ groups – are encouraged to contact Simpson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office at 250-287-3785.