Friday, June 17, 2011

The Recreation and Environment Link

Note: This is a version of a column I had appear in the Kings County Record recently.  I associate very closely with this one and feel incredibly blessed to live where I do, in a place where recreational opportunities can be found around every corner.  The upper Kennebecasis Watershed is a beautiful blend of thriving rural communities, bustling small town centers, and wide open spaces.  It maybe that this rural flavor has allowed the area to thrive during a time when other parts of the country are claiming hard times.  I have to ask myself "Do we need to boost our economy and compete on a global market?  Are we broken? Do we need to exploit our natural resources to survive?"  My answer usually comes to me as I wander down one of the beautiful rivers here in a resounding "No!"  With a healthy environment and recreational opportunities comes a happy and healthy community...what more do we need?  As you read this consider that the small piece of litter someone throws could represent any industry or individual causing environmental harm, we are all in this together, so lets all step up.

Wow…what do I write about this week?  Unlike the spring weather which has gotten off to a slow start, my spring has been anything but.  This is due in big part to my kids.  Thanks guys.  We have tented out for a night, been fishing on the Trout Creek, hit just about every playground in the Sussex area, played baseball and soccer, went geo-caching, roasted some marshmallows, and the first big family camping trip is just around the corner. 

All this activity got me thinking, why is the Sussex area so blessed with great recreation outlets?  As I continued to think about it I realized that it is likely due in good part to the healthy state of the local environment.  Without fish in the streams it is safe to say no one would enjoy fishing.  With poor air quality playing baseball or soccer would be less enjoyable and less healthy.  If our forests were disconnected or were a continuous monoculture hiking would be less entertaining and not nearly as enjoyable.  If our parks were poorly planned and our sports facilities were improperly maintained it is likely that they would not generate the needed revenue to be sustainable.

We are blessed to live in such a prosperous part of the world.  It would be a shame to see our recreation opportunities diminish simply because we did not show enough thought to our environment.  Many organizations are now striving to increase the publicly perceived value of the environment through recreational outings that also provide an education and outreach opportunity.  Fundy National Park for instance recently hosted their "Wings Over Fundy" bird watching event and also have incorporated ecosystem education in a geo-caching series they introduced about three years ago.

The idea of education through recreation provides the public with an enjoyable afternoon where they learn about the environment without even realizing that they are learning.  With a relaxed mind set they no doubt take in much more than if they were sitting in a class room.  Granted some people learn better when focused on specific topics so for those people there is the movement towards "citizen science."  This is where organizations organize volunteers to observe conditions, gather data, identify characteristics, or even take samples.  While the data may not be considered scientifically valid, it still provides excellent background data for planning and prioritization exercises by the various organizations using it, and the events are excellent outreach and educational tools.

Environmental conservation is everyone's responsibility and if we take a negative action towards the environment it potentially impacts everyone.  Take for example someone using the walking trail in Sussex.  If he throws litter into a nearby ditch it eventually ends up in the Trout Creek and then the Kennebecasis River and eventually into the Bay of Fundy.  The Bay could be considered the driving engine to New Brunswick.  It is the backbone of our tourism industry, it contributes largely to the fisheries, and affects the local weather that highly influences the climate that grows our trees for forestry.  If we continue to litter in it we lose the Bay, our economy, our Province, and maybe most importantly our recreation opportunities.

If you want to contribute to conserving our local recreation why not meet an eager group of volunteers on June 12th from 2:00-4:30 at the corner of Route 111 (Newline Road) and Church Avenue.  You can help plant some trees that will restore the stream banks along Ward's Creek.  Dress for the weather and wear something you don't mind getting dirty.

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