Municipal services co-ordinator with the city, Cindy Walters (left), city gardener Tracy DeRose (right) and the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society’s Oliver Berger teach Brooke Williston, 6, and Cruz Williston, 4, a bit about gardening. Greg Sabatino photo

COLUMNS: Education provides essential foundation to build on

The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society was delighted to attend the first ‘Public Works Day.’

On May 26, the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society was delighted to attend the first ‘Public Works Day’ hosted by the City of Williams Lake.

It was a fun and engaging opportunity for the citizens of Williams Lake to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep this city running; such as making sure we have healthy, safe water to drink, removing our waste water then cleaning and returning it to rivers, dealing with our garbage and recycling, keeping our streets cleared of snow all winter, as well as the numerous other services provided to ensure the community is healthy, safe and sustainable.

The mandate of the Conservation Society is primarily education, and our two main programs — Water Wise and Waste Wise — focus on school children. Much of this is in the classroom, but we also offer field trips which supplement and enrich what we can offer in class.

So much of Water Wise and Waste Wise is intertwined with ‘Public Works.’ Water Wise started because of concerns about the long-term viability of the aquifer, so we take students to meet the City staff and see the pump stations where water is pumped out of the aquifer.

Then they can connect the classroom sessions and learn conservation tips with ‘real life’ and the ‘real people’ actually dealing with the issues.

We then go and see the other end of things at the sewage lagoons, and they actually see the town’s sewage gushing out of a pipe with all the garbage mixed in that should not be there.

Standing there and having the City staff explain what should not go down drains, seems far more likely to have some effect than anything taught in a classroom.

With Waste Wise, following the same principles, classes get taken to the dump.

Kids meet the people involved with waste management, see the scale of what needs to be processed and now have an image in their heads of what happens to their garbage; it is no longer something that just magically ‘disappears’ once they throw it in a black bin or blue box.

So I’m not pretending that seeing sewage and garbage is necessarily ‘fun’ and I’m absolutely sure that kids have a long list of field trips that would be preferable, however, a key to keeping a society healthy and functional is access to clean and safe water, and removal of waste products of all kinds.

Maybe, many years down the road, they will remember these tours when they start paying their own taxes and understand why these things cost money and water isn’t ‘free.’

Public Works Day gives everyone a similar opportunity to appreciate the behind-the-scenes effort, skill, time and expense to keep a city functioning smoothly and providing the essential foundation for a healthy population.

Conservation Tip of the Month: Keep our storm drains clean by not dumping garbage, toxic liquids or anything you wouldn’t want to swim in. Only rain should go down the drain!

Jenny Howell is the executive director with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

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