The 2004 film “National Treasure” starring Nicolas Cage depicts a search for a treasure in the United States dating back to the nation’s early days.
Lethbridge has a treasure, too — a natural treasure — but it’s much easier to find, and its riches can be shared by everyone.
Tucked away in the city’s river valley is a treasure of flora and fauna, spread over almost 4,000 hectares which encompass 10 scenic parks.
On Monday, Lethbridge City Council made a move to safeguard this treasure for future generations by enacting the River Valley Parks Master Plan, a long-term strategy to protect and manage the natural resource while also balancing recreational development in the eco-sensitive area.
In a story in Tuesday’s Herald, Ryan Carriere, the city’s Parks Planning Manager, noted citizens have expressed a desire to balance recreation and protection in the river valley. They also understand “that you can’t have nature-based recreation without nature.”
Hence the need to protect it. As much as residents want to enjoy opportunities to get away into nature, it must also be safeguarded or nature won’t be there for them to enjoy. That’s also the idea behind the assorted river valley cleanup efforts spearheaded by the Helen Schuler Nature Centre, the most recent of which took place on Saturday. A Herald story last week pointed out that since 2014, close to 4,800 cigarette butts had been collected during cleanup events in the river valley, and that’s just one item among the many types of garbage that find their way into the valley.
Carriere pointed out the master plan will serve as a guideline to help the city in crafting future bylaws. He added it’s important to have a plan in place to deal with future situations that could pose harm to the river valley.
Protecting the river valley is important. While the city wants to encourage residents to make use of this natural treasure, recreational opportunities within the valley must be done with discretion so as not to damage the ecology of the area. The abundant and varied wildlife making its home in the valley is a big part of the attraction for nature lovers. The Helen Schuler Nature Centre notes that the Lethbridge area is home to more than 300 species of birds, not to mention mammals such as deer, rabbits, beavers, porcupines, coyotes, etc.
The valley also boasts an amazing assortment of plant life, thanks to the life-giving river which winds through the valley. Failure to take care of these resources will only spoil the enjoyment of this unique area.
Many residents might not be aware, but the Oldman River valley is the third-largest urban park system in Canada. Citizens are fortunate to have such a wonderful natural resource right in their own backyard.
Making sure this resource is protected so it can be enjoyed well into the future only makes sense. The River Valley Parks Master Plan looks to be a good step toward ensuring that will happen.