Chances are that when you picture the city of Saskatoon, you picture an image of a winding river valley, spanned by several bridges, bordered by lush green, and crisscrossed by a network of trails. For many of us, this is Saskatoon.
Ensuring that the natural spaces along the Meewasin Valley are conserved and that the rich cultural heritage is preserved is the mandate of the Meewasin Valley Authority (Meewasin). The valley encompasses nearly 40 square kilometers (25 square miles) of natural prairie along the winding curve of the South Saskatchewan River at Saskatoon. "It is a challenge to balance the needs of a growing city while preserving these important natural areas," says Nola Stein, Project Designer at Meewasin. Conserving and restoring these pristine spaces is only the beginning for Meewasin. "Once established, it is vital that these conserved areas are managed and that people have a chance not only to enjoy them but to learn about our cultural and natural history."
For more than 30 years, Meewasin has been a conservation leader in Saskatoon. Conservation projects are designed to maintain a healthy and vibrant river valley including: natural urban parks, canoe launches, interpretive centres, and more than 30 km of paved trails.
Meewasin offers a wide variety of programs and activities where people can experience the valley and support its conservation. Volunteer stewards provide critical support to on-the-ground efforts by helping maintain sections of the riverbank, planting trees, collecting seeds from native plants, cleaning up garbage, etc. One can also take part in Meewasin's well-known Pelican Watch Contest each March, where participants guess the date and arrival time of the first pelican to touch down between the CPR Bridge and the weir. Entry is free. Bragging rights are unlimited.
Meewasin offers a complete suite of donor programs to support its ongoing conservation efforts. Programs range from donated conservation easements, to corporate and planned giving, to a Plant a Tree program. Through the Association of Saskatchewan Urban Parks and Conservation Agencies (ASUPCA), Meewasin also offers a volunteer program to offset your carbon footprint by planting trees or native shrubs in Saskatoon. Check out their carbon calculator to see how much CO2 is emitted by activities like driving, flying, even attending a conference .
Education is vital to Meewasin's mandate and the agency offers programs to students as well the general public at its interpretive centres. "It is really important for kids - and adults - to get out and connect with nature," says Stein. "Having a hands-on experience engages the students in a way that creates an awareness and appreciation of both the natural and cultural environments that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. The more people know about their surroundings, the better off we will all be."
Sustainability isn't limited to the outdoors at Meewasin; it's a principle that runs throughout the organization. Staff at Meewasin formed a green team to come up with ideas and activities to encourage sustainability in the organization including:
- a recycling and composting program for paper, plastics, and food items,
- bicycle parking as well as indoor bike hangers for staff,
- a subsidy for using public transit, and
- learning lunches where staff view and discuss environmental documentaries.
In 2003, Meewasin engaged the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) to conduct an audit of its operations. The SES made several short and long-term recommendations (such as replacing out-of-date lighting ballasts and windows) which Meewasin has strategically implemented as funding allows. This past summer, a follow up audit was conducted and staff continue to move forward with initiatives to improve the sustainability of its internal operations.
For more information contact:
Lloyd Isaak or Mike Velonas
Phone: (306) 665-6887