A symposium designed to create a strategy for long-term of protection of the Nanaimo River was a success in that it united stakeholders and initiated a flow of ideas, said Gail Adrienne, executive director of Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, which hosted the event.
About 250 people packed the Vancouver Island University theatre Friday night to hear presentations from CBC’s Bob McDonald, keynote speakers Rodger Hunter, Tom Rutherford and Craig Wightman, who have all contributed to developing a strategy for the Cowichan River, Snuneymuxw First Nation Coun. Bill Yoachim, and a presentation of Paul Manley’s newest video titled Voices of the River.
Adrienne said the presentations provided a powerful beginning to the symposium, building energy that lasted until the three-day event concluded Sunday (Sept. 25).
“Bob McDonald’s presentation was excellent. He talked about water here on earth and on other planets,” she said. “He had people laughing, but it could have been a very heavy presentation, very serious. He did a good job.”
Adrienne added that Yoachim’s address to the audience was also powerful.
Yoachim discussed the Douglas Treaty, Snuneymuxw’s position on its history and relationship with the river and how SFN hopes the community will work to build a better respect for the resource.
“He was direct and very candid about the issues,” said Adrienne. “It was about where they stand and it was a very strong presentation.”
Inspired by the presentations, about 60 attending delegates from various stakeholder groups including the City of Nanaimo, forestry workers, fisheries representatives, Harmac mill employees, VIU faculty and staff, recreation advocates and community members met in breakout groups Saturday to develop a framework for initial stages of developing a strategy to better protect the Nanaimo River watershed.
“What we wanted to do was bring people of different sectors in the community that relate in different ways to the watershed together,” said Adrienne. “There were times conversations got sidetracked into vested interests, but as a group everybody was very respectful of others’ positions and we got a great deal done.”
Prior to the symposium, NALT created a nine-chapter, 200-page baseline of information that was distributed to each delegate. The baseline included a synopsis of each interest, forestry, for example, and explained that sector’s interest in the river. Armed with a better understanding of opposing positions, breakout groups set out to develop a framework of ideas that will be developed into a long-term strategy that will serve and protect the Nanaimo River resource that so many groups depend on.
The draft baseline can be viewed at www.nalt.bc.ca.
Adrienne said some of the ideas created can be implemented right away, while others will be achieved in the future.
“The symposium was just a first step,” she said. “It achieved all that we had hoped and maybe more.”
It ended Sunday, which was also World Rivers Day, with a celebration at Maffeo Sutton Park.