Editor's Note: This guest blog is provided by Grade 6 student Hazel. It demonstrates the interconnectedness of land, water, people, and animals, and is a terrific example of how engaged citizens - of any age - can tackle global issues at the local level.
The Magrath Nature Trail Project (MNTP) was created by Hazel Peel-Hodgson and Don Peel, grandfather-granddaughter duo. As users of the Magrath Nature Trail, they noticed a decrease in the Northern Leopard Frog in the local Pothole Creek. The Northern Leopard Frog is an important part of the ecosystem, as they are great indicators of healthy riparian and wetland areas; the Frog is a very sensitive creature, and environments that have the frog in their system say that the land is rich in plants, healthy animals, and water. The Northern Leopard Frog is at the top of the Species at Risk list, partly due to toxic chemicals and substances like sunscreen transferred from people’s hands when they pick the frogs up, since frogs have such thin skin that easily absorbs pollutants. Industrial development, agriculture, urbanization, spraying for weeds (pesticide, herbicide) changing weather and water patterns, and global warming are hugely decreasing the frogs’ population. In Waterton, 1980 was the last time anyone saw the Northern Leopard Frog until the last few years.
The Magrath Nature Trail Project’s goal is to minimize spraying in the Town of Magrath (happening mainly on the golf course and asphalt trails, as thistle cracks the asphalt and spreads quickly, creating many bumps and hazardous lumps) and to create eco-friendly, biodegradable solutions to replace harmful chemicals and pollutants spreading across the Trail. One solution is vinegar, suggested by Hazel after hearing that it worked on dandelion weeds. The vinegar has completely killed the thistle popping up into the asphalt, and it has also killed bindweed and other plant types. This could be a much safer solution for the Trail, as 5% vinegar works very well, and is not too strong for other animals.
The study and work that they have done have blossomed into a 60-page report that they will be presenting to the Town of Magrath June 25th. The chapters include History, Geography, Water Testing (Hazel and Don tested Pothole Creek and Dudley’s Pond in Magrath, with consistent and basic remarks, good with the limits of their testing kit), Laws, Regulations, Bylaws, and Guidelines, Partnerships (including the Oldman Watershed Council), Interviews and Meetings (as they interviewed 10 Magrath citizens for their views and remarks of the Trail), and many more.
The MNTP also contributed to Hazel’s learning of environmental stewardship and the democratic process, as she is currently being community-schooled by her grandfather as her main teacher and her family as her other teachers this year. The MNTP is widely changing and growing her views on how to support a healthy environment and community, and how to exercise her democratic rights as a Canadian citizen.
Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Hazel’s project at our AGM on Thursday, June 27.