Monday, March 29, 2010

Toilet Seats and Earth Hour 2010

The day started off like most Saturdays. I got out of bed and got my son his breakfast. There was nothing difficult about that, but my next decision would cause me a great deal of frustration. A few days ago our old toilet seat had broken and my wife and I had gone downtown Friday night as part of our date night to pick out a new seat. What a romantic date eh? We enjoyed strolling through the aisles at Kent Building Supply looking for other stuff we wanted but couldn't afford. We settled on a nice economical white toilet seat, and a couple of new light fixtures for the bedrooms. It was a productive trip. When I awoke the next morning I thought "Heck it'll only take me a couple of minutes to change the toilet seat. I'll do that before I have breakfast." Thus began the frustration. Have you ever changed a toilet seat where the bolts are completely rusted. I put the Phillips screwdriver into the slot and turned and the head of the bolt crumbled away. I tried lightly hammering the screwdriver into the bolt but even once I got the screwdriver to hold, I couldn't twist it because the nut was seized and there was no way to get at it. I thought about drilling it out but that made me nervous, as porcelain doesn't react well to drill bits. Finally I borrowed my father's hacksaw, and cut the bolts off. Now if I had of had the saw to start I likely would have saved a great deal of frustration but it was a lesson learned. I am almost certain now that on my next birthday my wife will buy me a hacksaw.

My frustration was quickly relieved and my day from then on went very well. After looking after my sister's two boys for the afternoon, my wife and I planned a quiet night at home. Being Earth Hour that evening we set out some candles and grabbed a book. We relaxed with our daughter in the candlelit living room and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Even after Earth Hour was over we still sat by candlelight and watched a great movie. My frustration from the morning chore was long behind me when I crawled into bed that night and in fact I felt rewarded from all that I had accomplished that day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Forming the Future of FNP

Have you ever visited Fundy National Park? Have you ever wondered how the park is managed? Have you ever thought you might have a better way to offer a service or protect a piece of nature? If you have then you might be interested in learning that Fundy National Park is interested in hearing your perspective. This Sunday at the Alma Activity Center, 8584 Main Street, Alma, from 2-4 and 6-8, FNP staff will be hosting an open house. The objective is to inform people about the proposed 5year management plan and gather feedback to finalize the plan.

This morning I headed to Alma to provide stakeholder input in a focus workshop and found it very informative. I think that the park staff need to focus more on preserving the ecological integrity of the parks wilderness areas and the interpretive services, while leaseholders or contractors provide the recreation activities in a controlled environment. All partners need to work together to make visitors feel welcome and provide a memorable experience and how that happens really will depend on the visitor.

I encourage you, if you have the time on Sunday, March 28th to take the drive to Alma and have your say. I am almost certain your drive will be more enjoyable than mine was this morning. If you live near the Park and haven't been there recently, then I suggest you go see what it has to offer.

See you in the woods.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Electrofishing is a Blast

Earlier this week I was out electrofishing. I was part of a team working to collect data on slimy sculpin that would be used to model riparian or stream bank health. The weather was cold, wet, and sometimes windy but we pushed through the majority of the sites. The team was part of a Canadian Rivers Institute research project led by Master's candidate Gila Somers. I became part of the team thanks to my position as Project Manager for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee. The research is being done within the Kennebecasis watershed and thus I get to take part in this cool field work.

Electrofishing in March poses some issues, mainly water levels, glare, and cold temperatures. I had on my chest waders from Moffett's Pro Hardware to combat the highwater level, my polarized Ryders sun glasses from Outdoor Elements to battle the glare, and lots of clothes on to fend off the cold temperatures. This is one of my favorite field activities and one of the reasons I really love my job. Even when the frazzle ice is slinking around my knees, my nose is a freezing light pink, and the snow is slowly turning to freezing rain, I still have a big smile on my face. What makes this even more enjoyable is the fact that we are catching fish, a good indicator that the work the KWRC is doing, may be having a positive impact on the watershed health.

Where else can I get a headstart on fishing season? Which is just around the bend by the way. If you like fish then maybe you should consider buying a ticket to the Atlantic Community Church-Guatemala Mission Team's salmon dinner. Tickets are $20 for dinner and silent auction on April 10 from 6-9 at the Apohaqui Community Center in Jones Memorial Park. Stop by Backstage Music and pick up your ticket today and support the Mission work being done in Guatemala, where the team will build infrastructure, relationships, and hope in a small impoverished community.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Work and Learn Afternoon

This weekend past I had the opportunity to organize a work and learn day titled "Water and Willows" as part of my job with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee. When you organize things like this you just cross your fingers and hope that someone shows up. You do the needed email postings, web advertizing, poster postings, and press releases with the hope of drawing at least a handful of people. You check the weather forecasts for the entire week leading up to the event hoping the sun is shining to increase the odds of having people there.

Well for me, this weekend came together rather modestly, with word getting around about the event and the weather sunny and above seasonal temperatures. It was a great day and I shared it with my son. The point of the "Water and Willows Day" was two fold. The first was to gather willow spikes that I would be striking into "Jiffy" pots at a tree nursery so they would grow to seedlings for use this spring on our river restoration sites. The second purpose was to simply get people on the river and show them how great it easy and how easy it can be to help improve it. The willows we were harvesting whips from, the KWRC had planted about 8years ago.

About 20 people met at the Millstream Rec Center and took in a brief presentation on how to harvest willow spikes for transplanting. Then it was a short walk to the banks of the Millstream River. Warm weather meant for a great day outside and people chatted and enjoyed the light work together. In all, over 3700 strikes were harvested.

I want to thank the Kennebecasis Naturalist Society, and the First Sussex Girl Guide members, who helped out, along with the individuals who showed up as well. Volunteers are an integral part of the KWRC and without them we could not carry out many of the projects that we regularly complete.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whalen's Wanderings

A Personal Challenge with a Global Impact

About two months ago I decided, foolishly, that I wanted to challenge myself to lose weight while saving the environment. Most people would know that I am passionate about environmental sustainability but most would be shocked to hear that I need to lose a few pounds. I didn't want to diet, or change my eating habits, and I didn't just want to hit the gym, so I combined this new weight loss initiative with my passion for the environment. The result is my personal "Green Weight Loss Challenge."

The goal of my challenge is to lose 15lbs while reducing my carbon footprint. To do this I have started walking to work on a regular basis. This reduces the amount of driving I do and thus reduces the amount of carbon I release into the atmosphere. To take this endeavor one step farther I started calculating my carbon credits and comparing that to my weight loss. To be completely honest, it has been a frustrating experience to date. I have lost very little weight over the two months, but I have gained a new respect for those who have battled with their weight for a number of years. My weight issue is not a big one and I truly thought I would easily shed the 15lbs I had set as a goal. Boy was I wrong. On a typical 4day backpacking trip I can lose 5lbs, but after walking to work over 25 times in the last two months, I have only lost 4lbs. It was 6lbs but I gained 2 back somewhere.

Despite the low weight loss number I am happy that I am reducing my carbon footprint. Luckily for me I am not trying to realize any financial gain from carbon credits. I was surprised to learn how much effort I would need to make to simply create one carbon credit, and even more shocked at how little one carbon credit was worth. One carbon credit is one ton of carbon, and it has a trade value of approximately $30. My less than modest car generates approximately 0.237kgC/km (kilograms of Carbon/km) and I walk 4.8km in order to get to work. To date I have walked to work 26 times, a total of 124.8km. This keeps 29.6kgC out of the environment, providing me with a potential financial windfall of $0.89+/-. In order for me to realize 1 carbon credit ($20-$40) I will have to walk to work for about 4 more years and I don't need to tell you what that works out to per hour of walking.

For the time being I am entirely content simply walking for my good health while doing my part for the environment. Whether I lose weight or make a fortune matters very little to me. It is interesting though to bring these two topics together and realize how my personal health can also impact the environment. If you are looking to help the environment then you can start by looking after yourself. Until I started this challenge I didn't really see that connection.

Just a reminder that the Kennebecasis Watershed is hosting a presentation by Roberta Clowater from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, NB Chapter, on March 17th from 7-9pm at 1067 Main Street, Sussex Corner. The title of the presentation is "How Can Rivers and Forests Help Us in a Time of Climate Change."

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Icy Attractions

Earlier today someone asked me if I knew of any icy attractions. I thought sure but I struggled to explain to them where they were located. I have been wanting to get maps onto my blog anyways so I thought why not try it with this question. The map will show locations of various types of natural ice features. If you plan on going to one of these travel smart and be prepared.

I hope this map works for ya. The picture is from a trek around the hills and streams near Walker Settlement.,-65.287714&spn=0.030199,0.054846&t=h&z=14

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This is my latest column that appeared in today's Kings County Record

Whalen's Wanderings

A Morning Walk Leading to a Rant

I have been walking to work quite regularly over the last month and a half. I enjoy the early morning stroll and I find that it puts my mind in a good place before I have to start my day. Another great aspect of the walk is that I not only get a workout for my legs, I also tone my arms. I seem to always be waving to people and every now and then I laugh as I realize how truly great it is to be in this great place. Besides needing exercise, I also started walking to reduce my ecological footprint. The less I drive my car the better for the environment. I realize this isn't feasible for everyone to do but I encourage you to consider active transportation next time you're just heading around the corner. It will make you feel good on more than one level.

Friendly people, unfortunately, are not the only thing I have noticed on my walks. I also have seen a huge amount of litter along our main streets. One morning I could have easily collected $1.50 in refundable cans and bottles, and if I had a place to put them I would have picked them up and bought myself a hot chocolate from Tim Horton's. This brings me to another item of debris, coffee cups. If you stop at the bridge on Main Street that crosses over Parson's Brook you will likely count over 20 cups in that one location alone. Some one is in the habit of simply throwing the remains of their morning coffee into Parson's Brook. As the project manager for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee, this really irks me. Every year for the last three years we have removed more the 500lbs of garbage from Trout Creek near the Leonard Drive bridge due to thoughtless people who litter.

Parson's Brook does not always run, I know, but that does not mean it is a garbage ditch. When it runs, it flows into Trout Creek, which flows through Sussex, then into the Kennebecasis River, which flows by Apohaqui, Norton, Hampton, Quispamsis, and Rothesay, then empties into the Saint John River, to the Bay of Fundy, and then finally into the Atlantic Ocean. Last I checked there are no aquatic species that like coffee, so when you throw your cup into Parson's Brook, you are negatively impacting the entire eastern seaboard, because no one likes to see garbage floating by them as they walk along the river, or paddle in the Bay, or cruise on the ocean.

If you want to have your coffee on the go, buy yourself a reusable mug. I think in some instances your coffee might be cheaper if you do and Tim Horton's has a good price on great trendy mugs. If you don't have a mug then properly dispose of your cup. Rinse it and throw it in your blue bag at home and it will be recycled. That is a far cry better than having it float down the Trout Creek.

Ben Whalen is an avid backpacker, adventurer, and environmentalist, who loves the natural areas in and around Kings County. You can check out more of his adventures and writing at

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Speechless Memories

Not to often am I left speechless or at a loss for words to write. Really I could write words on how the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics went but no words could really do justice to what those games did to this great nation. I don't want to copy and paste someone else's image onto my blog, I don't want to try to describe to you how watching Canada win 14 medals made me feel. The truth is I just want to remember it, and keep it etched in my mind for as long as I can. The only thing I want to say is thanks to those athletes that gave their all, win or lose, finish or fall trying, not one of you dissappointed. I write that knowing that it is very unlikely an Olympic athlete will ever read it but I want to put it out there. It is truly wonderful to be Canadian.