NALT ramps up river symposium preparations

Nanaimo River Stewardship Symposium 2011 set to take place from Sept. 23-25.

A symposium later this month is designed to create an initial strategy for long-term protection of the Nanaimo River watershed.

Organizers recently added a high-profile name to its growing list of speakers, said Gail Adrienne, executive director of the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust.

Bob McDonald, host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, was confirmed Thursday as a guest speaker at the Nanaimo River Stewardship Symposium 2011, and will give a special presentation on worldwide issues surrounding water on Sept. 23, the opening night of the three-day conference.

McDonald’s presentation will be preceded by the premier of Paul Manley’s newest video, Voices of the River.

For the last six months Manley has interviewed a broad range of people who share a common bond – their connection to the river and their need for it.

“We want to stress that this symposium isn’t an end, it’s a start of creating a strategy toward stewardship,” said Adrienne. “It’s the first step to beginning that long term vision and getting people at the table together for starters. Different interests, different stakeholders, getting them to talk to each other and to listen to each other and get past some of the us and them kind of attitudes.”

An informal first day of various activities will include rafting down the lower Nanaimo River, a guided hike, touring the river hatchery or testing adrenaline at Wild Play. That will be followed by McDonald’s and Manley’s presentations.

Saturday will see the symposium begin in earnest on developing a strategy at the theatre at Vancouver Island University.

Three keynote speakers include Craig Wightman of the B.C. Conservation Foundation, and Rodger Hunter and Tom Rutherford, who will give presentations on the development of the Cowichan River Water Management Plan, the formation of the Cowichan Watershed Board and its adoption of sustainability targets.

“These three speakers will be focusing on the whole philosophy of using the Cowichan River as a model of one that has set up a really good strategy,” said Adrienne. “And planning for public access and multi-use of the Nanaimo River resource.”

She added the Nanaimo River is particularly valuable because it serves as the city’s water source.

After information from a 10-chapter baseline report is presented, participants will go into five different break-out sessions to help establish a protection strategy.

Some stakeholder groups include: representatives from fisheries, forestry, Harmac mill employees, property owners, VIU students and faculty, recreation, the regional district and City of Nanaimo, and the community at large. Adrienne is also hoping First Nation representatives will participate.

When the symposium ends at noon Sunday, activities will move from VIU to Maffeo Sutton Park, where it will partner with the City of Nanaimo to celebrate World Rivers Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The free event will include entertainment, live music, barbecued salmon burgers, and information booths.

“We hope people come away from this with a better understanding of each other and how everybody needs to work together for the benefit of the river,” said Adrienne.

Sponsorships for the symposium are still available. Please contact NALT at 250-714-1994 or e-mail riverteam1@nalt.bc.ca for sponsorship opportunities or to register.

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