Recognizing Watershed Heroes

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

The 36th annual Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority's Conservation Awards were presented in Newmarket, November 2.

“Tonight is a celebration of our “Watershed Heroes”,” said LSRCA chief administrative officer Mike Walters, who called the evening as “one of my favourite events,” because it recognizes the work of volunteers and community partners. “Without your help, we cannot complete our job and our vision – a healthy Lake Simcoe.”

Healthy Water, Healthy Lands and Healthy Communities Awards were presented to recipients from across the watershed – this year, with special thanks to the Williams Treaty First Nations – the Chippewas of Georgina Island, Rama and Beausoleil –  for their “unrelenting” care of the watershed, and the environment.

The Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, and Waabgon Gamig First Nation School were also recipients of Healthy Water Awards, for the Gerties Creek Restoration Project, funded  in part by the Lake Simcoe Southeastern Georgian Bay Clean Up Fund. The students at Waabgon Gamig not only planted shrubs along the creek, they continue to monitor the health of the creek, on an ongoing basis.

Kerry-Anne Charles, Georgina Island environmental co-ordinator, accepted  the Healthy Water Award on behalf of Williams Treaty First Nations, and spoke of the new partnership and relationship-building between First Nations and the LSRCA. “It's something we're very proud of ,” Charles said, noting that the health of Lake Simcoe and the health of Georgina Island are interconnected.

Other Healthy Water Award recipients included the Town of Newmarket, Town of Aurora, Carson and Margaret Thorn of Kawartha Lakes, Matthew Jewell (Kawartha Lakes), Mike Nealon (Town of Georgina).

The Town of Innisfil  and partner, the South Simcoe Streams Network, received the award for the restoration of Innisfil Creek, where it runs through Centennial Park – taking a stormwater management pond offline, and restoring the natural flow of the creek.

The Holland Marsh Growers Association was awarded a Healthy Water Award for its pilot project, looking into the removal of organic soil from farm washwater in the Holland Marsh.

Murray Hawman, of Hawman Container Services in Barrie, was recognized for designing and manufacturing a new double-walled fuel tank, to reduce the risk to drinking water at his Barrie facility – a design that is now certified for use world-wide.

Healthy Lands Awards were presented to Jason Chang (King Twp.), Elie and Janie Riviere of Uxbridge, St. Nicholas Catholic School in Newmarket, and Maple Grove Public School in Barrie. 

Healthy Communities Awards were presented to TS Tech Canada Inc. (Newmarket/Aurora) for its participation in tree-planting during Conservation Days; and to Gord Bennett and the Telus Day of Giving, a watershed-wide deployment of Telus volunteers to plant native trees and shrubs.

Two major awards were presented at the end of the evening. The Ernie Crossland Young Conservationist Award,  that “recognizes future environmental leaders,”  was presented to 10 year old Eva Crothers of Uxbridge, who launched a new Eco Club at her school. The Club, now made up of 10 students in Grades 1 through 4, has already organized a litter clean-up in the school's nature garden, and evaluated how each classroom can reduce the amount of garbage they produce.

Crothers accepted the award with a speech to her “fellow tree-huggers,” telling the gathering, “With people like you, we can make a difference.”

Finally, the George R. Richardson Conservation Award of Honour, for lifetime achievement, was presented posthumously to Lorrie Mackness. Chair of York Environmental Stewardship, Chair of the Maskinonge River Recovery Project, founding member of Green Connections, director of the York Durham Ontario Woodlot Association,  Mackness was recognized for his dedication to nature and to sustainability, “making a difference in the world, and in the lives of others.”

Accepting the award was his widow, Grace Mackness, and daughters Gudrun Mackness and Myvanwy Godbout. “I and my family are very proud to accept this award on my husband's behalf. Lorrie was a great believer in protecting every aspect of nature,” said Grace. “He extended that philosophy to the community.”