BONNYVILLE – The health of riparian areas was a topic of discussion during the Lakeland Industry and Community Association’s (LICA) annual general meeting.
Norine Ambrose, executive director of Cows and Fish, was the keynote speaker during the Oct. 8 AGM and she focused on the topic that has been ever-present for LICA.
“It’s the area where land and water meet,” Ambrose noted. “These ribs of space or green places that tie us all together. These are places of transition and change.”
Cows and Fish is an organization that focuses on educating people on riparian areas and the best ways to have healthy and functioning riparian areas.
Plants are often found in these areas, which have a number of benefits when it comes to the health of the body of water.
“Part of what the plant does is not only physically hold the soil together with their roots, but they also trap the material that’s flowing over in flood events and runoff events,” detailed Ambrose. “They grab and hold onto the material, or the sediment particulars and the nutrients that are attached to that. They suck it up, use it, and they also transform it and turn it into other things, including building deep and rich soil.”
LICA has emphasized over the past few years on local riparian management and education.
“Tree planting is a valuable method to expedite improvements in riparian health since woody vegetation plays such a critical role and is often slower growing compared to other vegetation,” said LICA environmental coordinator Tricia Fleming.
After completing a riparian health assessment of Jessie Lake in 2019, part of the Jessie Lake Restoration project included the planting of trees along the Jessie Lake trail in order to address this.
According to Fleming, there were 5,000 trees planted this spring between 42nd St. and 55th St. and 7,500 between 55th St. and 58th St. by the rodeo grounds.
Addressing riparian health wasn’t the only project that kept LICA busy last year. They reached over 7,000 people through their outreach programs and hosted 13 community events.
Mason Unrau, education and outreach coordinator, explained one of the campaigns they brought to the area was Stop Needless Idling.
“This educational campaign describes two major benefits of stopping needless idling, keeping the air healthy and saving money on fuel,” he noted. “Drivers were asked to pledge to idle for 60 seconds or less in their cars.”
LICA also partnered with a Grade 5 class from École des Beaux-Lacs to roll out the program at their school.
“The health benefits of stopping needless idling at schools are especially important since children are more vulnerable to vehicle emissions than adults and that’s because children breathe faster and inhale more air per kilogram of body weight. They’re more susceptible to the pollutants that vehicles emit,” Unrau said.
There were 53 pledges from local drivers to idle for 60 seconds or less as a result of LICA’s community engagement.
The Little Green Thumbs program, which shows children how to grow a garden in their classroom to teach them where their food comes from, was expanded this year to include the Little Green Sprouts. Unrau said it’s a "skilled down" version to allow younger grades to participate.
“We received 10 applications in the fall of 2019 and a total of seven gardens were distributed to schools throughout the Lakeland,” Unrau stated. “There were seven because there were (multiple) applications from the same school.”
Dr. Bernard Brosseau School, Notre Dame Elementary, and Holy Cross Elementary were among the facilities that participated.
Unrau described the community garden and compost as “an exciting new project.”
“It hit the ground this fall and volunteers were invited to help construct 15 raised garden beds, fill them with soil, and build the compost structures. The garden will engage Bonnyville residents with educational opportunities based around the benefits of growing food and providing fresh produce to participants,” he said, adding the first phase of the garden will be ready for planting in 2021.
“The growing season will start with having members (tend) the gardens.”
That’s not the only thing on LICA’s plan for next year. Another project they’re in the process of working on is an integrated watershed management plan for the Beaver River Watershed.
“We will be conducting engagement sessions in early 2021 to understand what the public, stakeholders, and indigenous communities want to see in this plan,” noted Fleming.
There are also plans to construct a rain garden, developing a riparian health education program, among other projects.