Save OUr Lake (SOUL)
Save Our Lake…SOUL
Our grass roots group is a sub committee of a provincial park based cottage owners association, which has been working hard at stimulating environmental actions for the last 4 years. Initiated at our AGM in 2006 it was prompted by the desire to:
a. show our firm financial support for the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium (LWRC)
b. and to initiate a constructive method of educating our residents about what positive actions could be taken to help remediate the health of the Lake to which we are so closely bound.
In the first year with a small core group of workers, we printed and carried through on a widespread dissemination of educational material informing people about the work of the MV Namao. A list of phosphate free cleaning products was sourced and printed. Financial donations were solicited and were to be made directly to the LWRC. We established a distribution network and compiled basic material which was mailed to known cottage groups and delivered by car to all communities around the SW of the basin. The Cottager Magazines’ directory provided access to all cottage groups on the SE side of the S Basin. Posters were also placed in 80 spots on the SW side. We were hopeful that this distributed information would be widely shared.
The following year we compiled additional packages of printed educational information obtained “Free” from Conservation, Water Stewardship, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada and hand delivered samples to all RM and Community offices, E and W sides, asking them to make the information available to their residents. A list of sources of these free materials was included and it was hoped that our contacts would further distribute or make the information available to their residents. The Winnipeg River communities were also included.
During these two first years we also wrote short articles for the Cottager Magazine and Manitoba Cottage Owners Association’s newsletter; were interviewed by CBC Noon Hour, Shaw TV, the Manitoba Co-operator and were contacted by a number of others who showed an interest in what we were trying to do. We must acknowledge too, the help of the LWRC staff who were very patient in vetting our written material.
Year 2009 at the suggestion of the LWRC, we concentrated on our own cottage area at Grindstone Park. A Go Greener Grindstone plan was introduced and accepted at our AGM, which embodied an effort to make our community the best example of an informed cottager group dedicated to being good environmental stewards of the land and Lake.
A Water Survey was compiled and distributed in the spring and funding obtained for this project from the Provincial Water Stewardship Fund. A handout of Action Steps was prepared with the cooperation of CPAWS and Water Stewardship and was handed out at our annual Grindstone Days. By the fall, the survey results were tabulated, recommendations made and answers for cottagers’ questions were obtained. These were published in the next Grindstone Gazette. The survey had obtained a 38% return rate, which was very acceptable and it indicated that our community was becoming knowledgeable and aware of environmental issues and were eager to do more.
In late summer an opportunity arose to apply to the federal Lake Winnipeg Basin Water Stewardship Fund. We had also heard that a new sewage lagoon was to be built in our park area. Discussions were started between SOUL, the GCOA board and Dr. Alex Salki, a cottager in our area, about the possibility of linking the new lagoon with a managed wetland for the purpose of reducing our P footprint and furthering public education We managed to obtain a meeting with the deputy Minister of Conservation to forewarn him that we as a Cottage Association wanted to make an application. He precipitated a meeting with all the appropriate persons, including Conservation, Water Stewardship staff and lagoon engineering firm, in order to answer the many questions that we had.
At this meeting we also heard that a natural wetland was already being used as an exit to the Lake for our sewage effluent material, but that it had never ever been tested for suitability. This fact alone was enough to convince us that our project for a new lagoon connected with a managed wetland would be an ideal situation to set up a combined Educational and Scientific study area. It would enable us to continue the progress we had made with environmental actions and perhaps be emulated elsewhere.
The project was submitted in Jan 2009. It was received quite well by the federal environmental people who clarified some aspects and the Province initially gave a provisional promise of funding. Ultimately this was abruptly denied in September and we were told that a Wetland assessment would not be required because the effluent would be treated with Alum and the precipitant be dispersed. We were very disappointed and in 2010 are considering other options.
In addition, in April 2009, the SOUL group sponsored two awards at the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium (MSSS) year for projects which address action steps towards the remediation of the health of the Lake. Inherent in the project is that students are asked to orally present their findings to a group of their peers or others, in order to encourage them to spread their message further. We are continuing with this sponsorship this year 2010.
We were hoping that by publicizing Souls’ actions to other cottage communities that they too will see what is possible if a common environmental goal is defined and acted on. The privacy act has remained a block and deterrent for reaching out directly, so we do not have feedback on whether this has happened, but we remain positive. We are aware that our Challenge to other communities has been answered and donations from our contacts have been received by the LWRC. Action can bring success!
We would welcome the opportunity to meet directly with groups of Manitobans who are interested in taking positive action steps to help the rehabilitation of the lake.
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