Right now there is a group of 13 Junior Forest Wardens out exploring the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. They aren't there just for fun and for learning about the local environment, they're also helping to maintain the trails and structures, and pass along knowledge.
Junior Forest Wardens are young people who, through this amazing program, learn about nature, the environment, environmental science, forest ecology, and conservation through some fantastic outdoor learning opportunities. The local Red Deer group - the Red Deer Woodchucks - is extremely active. If you're looking for an outdoor activity for your kids, they're a great place to investigate.
In August, 2013 the leader of the oldest age group of Wardens contacted us and asked about a partnership. They wanted to "adopt" the Sanctuary. They offered to take some of the responsibility for things like trail maintenance, garbage removal, and invasive species control. They also wanted to do some public awareness work. In return we'd teach them about the local environment, educate them on the history and importance of the Sanctuary, and provide mentorship to the kids. The oldest kids would then bring in the younger age groups, pass on their knowledge, and lead them in stewardship activities.
Tonight marks the 8th visit by these intrepid youngsters. To a person they've been enthusiastic, personable, and incredibly hard-working. They've scraped tons of ice and snow off the viewing decks, emptied garbage cans, picked garbage from the trails, and started sharing their knowledge with the younger kids.
In the coming months, we'll be expanding their responsibilities to include some public education and awareness work. We'll be heading up into the Clearview Ridge subdivision, just above the Sanctuary, to interact with the residents and educate them about the Sanctuary, where to access the park, and how to minimise the impact of the neighbourhood on the Sanctuary. The Wardens will be taking a role in the development of the educational materials, distributing the information door-to-door, and co-hosting a community barbecue in the Spring.
This has been a wonderful relationship for everybody involved. The Wardens fulfilled their mandate, we had a group take us on for some important work, and everybody - and the Sanctuary - has benefited. We look forward to a bright future with the Junior Forest Wardens and thank them for all their hard work.