A Wetland Centre for Everyone
On Wednesday October 4th 2022, crowds gathered just outside of Grande Prairie Alberta to learn about the wonderful world of wetlands in their own backyard at the Wetland Centre at Evergreen Park’s first ever Open House. Ducks Unlimited Canada’s National Boreal Program, who manages the site, planned this day to create a way for people from all backgrounds to spend time in a local wetland, learning the characteristics of swamps, fens, bogs, and marshes, as well as walking alongside Indigenous Elder Barbara Goodswimmer from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation learning the value of plants and their histories, immersing themselves in demonstrations displaying the different ways that industry can operate sustainably on the landscape, learning about community science, and offering feedback on their hopes for the future of the site.
Visitors to the open house were treated to delicious foods from local restaurants provided by Northlink Supply, one of many site sponsors, and hands-on displays with guest speakers from organizations like Junior Forest Rangers, Inside Education, County of Grande Prairie #1, Alberta Native Plant Council and Natural Resources Canada. Participants had the chance to win prizes through scavenger hunts, and get their hands dirty with peat sampling and other tour activities.
“It was such a valuable experience” said Rick Murray, Conservation Programs Specialist for DUC’s Boreal Program, the staff member who oversees the site. “This event was for everyone, we wanted folks from industry to be able to see that we can help display best practices for their operations, we wanted families to see that this place is accessible to them and their children, we wanted Indigenous peoples to feel welcome in this space and know we are listening, and we wanted local government to know that this gem is just outside our door and understand the knowledge and value that it offers. This event achieved all that and more.”
In addition to displaying the potential for the site to industry, Indigenous groups, the general public, and local government, the event also highlighted the site’s potential (and already occurring) contributions to the scientific and academic communities. Guest speakers highlighted the current monitoring that is happening at the site, and underscored the value of community-based citizen science, which invites everyone to participate in the collection of data and learning in an easy and accessible way by counting birds and plant species, taking photographs, checking measurements and logging the data on their smartphones.
Organizers of the event collected feedback from visitors after they experienced all that the site had to offer, and will now reflect on that feedback, building a plan for the future of the site with those recommendations in mind.
If you would like to learn more about the site or offer comments, please check out borealwetlandcentre.com