COLLABORATE FOR THE COMMON GOOD: “Engagement of community through stewardship is a credible formula to be encouraged and mainstreamed at every opportunity,” stated Eric Bonham when he provided his perspective on citizen science in action in British Columbia

Note to Reader:

On April 2-3-4, the City of Parksville was the setting for the second in the annual Vancouver Island symposium series on water stewardship in a changing climate. Co-hosted by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT) and the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES), the 3-day event was a watershed moment.

The collaborating organizations set out to achieve three objectives: attract an audience balanced across sectors; demonstrate the power of collaboration between the stewardship sector and local governments; and create an environment for sharing and cross-fertilizing experiences. Mission accomplished!

Below, Eric Bonham provides his reflections on the takeaways from the Parksville 2019 Symposium. A founding member of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, he was a Director in two Ministries – Environment and Municipal Affairs – prior to retirement from the provincial government. 

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“The core message is the power of thoughtful and constructive collaboration. It is one thing getting together to share ideas. It is quite another when there is a genuine desire to truly listen to each other, and through commitment, reach for the common good and, as a result, change how we do business together. This was the strength of the Symposium – the inter-generational and inter-discipline exchange that took place,” observed Eric Bonham.

Five inter-related topics caught the attention of delegates

“The Parksville 2019 Symposium confirmed the possible ‘wins’ for both the environment and local government when stewardship groups and local government collaborate effectively on community water initiatives. Five inter-related topics caught the attention of delegates,” continued Eric Bonham.

“First, the stewardship sector is now in for the ‘long haul’ and is no longer regarded as peripheral in making a difference. When 40% of the attendance is from the stewardship sector, it speaks volumes to their role as ‘agents of change’.

“Two thoughtful presentations demonstrated, as well as confirmed this reality, namely, Bowker Creek in the Capital Region, and Brooklyn Creek in the Town of Comox.”

“Secondly, Citizen Science has brought together the passion of community volunteers with practical ‘hands on’ field training programs. Good examples of the implementation of Citizen Science have been demonstrated through the leadership of Peter Law and Richard Boase, with the Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) and the District of North Vancouver water  quality training initiative, respectively.

“Thirdly, Parksville 2019 demonstrated partnerships in spades. The combination of local, provincial and federal government representatives, along with community groups, set the stage for a stimulating information exchange in the Town Hall sessions. The process for facilitating new ideas and bringing together ‘movers and shakers’ often results in creative partnerships and further collaboration.

“Fourthly, the presentation by Tim Pringleon the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) brought accountability to the process. One could see the ‘lights go on’ when Tim explained that it is not only possible, but practical, to calculate the worth of natural assets and ecological services, and as a result, provide local government and community stewards with an effective planning tool.

“Finally, the public lecture and finale presentation by author Storm Cunningham reminded delegates to ‘take the path less travelled’… to combine both vision and task and ‘think outside the pipe’. I believe the Partnership for Water Sustainability has built a credibility with our partners to date in this regard and is well positioned to take the next step.”

What Next?

“So, with the ever increasing role of stewardship groups, the value of the EAP process being realized, the expanding role of Citizen Science, the important role of partnerships and the call to ‘raise the bar’.…what should be the next venture for the Partnership?

“I believe we have arrived at a point where, in partnership with like-minded organizations, we should be encouraging the mainstreaming of stewardship,” concluded Eric Bonham.