Mary Forbes (second from right)

Mary Forbes (second from right)

Fraser River paddlers visit Potato House

It was a bit of a déjà vu for Mary Forbes when she entertained eight participants and two facilitators of the Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP) at the Potato House Monday evening, Aug.15.

It was a bit of a déjà vu for Mary Forbes when she entertained eight participants and two facilitators of the Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP) at the Potato House Monday evening, Aug.15.

Just a year ago Forbes stood in their shoes as a participant in the 24-day paddle and swim down the Fraser River from Mt. Robson to the mouth of the Fraser.

Now she was showing this year’s participants the fruits of her sustainability dream.

Each of the eight participants between the ages of 19 and 30 is encouraged to have a project they can implement following their 1,370-kilometre adventure down the Fraser River.

Mary chose to implement the Potato House Sustainability Project.

Forbes gave a tour of the Potato House grounds, and told the story of the gardens and heritage fruit trees nurtured for more than 50 years by Manuel and Alcina Quintela, and how the Potato House Sustainability Society that Mary initiated got title to the property.

Forbes then brought the participants inside the Quintela residence, explaining plans to restore and preserve the heritage nature of the building, while at the same time developing a sustainability and educational component to the project. One of the challenges, Forbes pointed out, is to eradicate toxic materials used to build the old house like the use of lead for paint and plumbing and asbestos for other construction materials that were common building practices in the 1930s.

Glenda Newsted, one of two facilitators on this year’s SLLP trip, says the program is more than teaching participants how to manipulate water crafts on the Fraser. “You learn about sustainable living, food security, green economics and how to lower your ecological footprint.”

She says the program includes team building, conflict resolution, communications skills and critical thinking. “You design your own sustainability project to implement in your community.”

Leif Douglass of Lillooet plans to implement a campaign against plastic water bottles when he gets back to classes at TRU in Kamloops in September. Laurel Huget of Surrey plans to organize a sustainability chapter in Kelowna where she will attend Okanagan College next term.

The Sustainable Living Leadership Program originated in 2002, and is an offshoot of the Rivershed Society of B.C. that was formed in the wake of Fin Donnelly’s  Swim for Life down the Fraser River in 1995.

This year the SLLP started on Aug. 4 in Valemont, and will conclude Aug. 24 at Jerico Beach at the mouth of the Fraser. The journey passes through 10 of B.C.’s 14 biogeoclimatic zones, and engages in the rivershed society’s extensive network of First Nation and non-native Fraser River community stewards.


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