Slack Slough Education Center project gathers momentum – Red Deer Advocate


A project to build a wetland education center perched near Slack Slough south of Red Deer is gaining momentum.

The initiative was already in the early stages of planning, with the Rotary Club of Red Deer taking the lead when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

“We were doing pretty well so, of course, COVID hit,” said Bob Mills, Rotary Wetlands Education Center steering committee member and former MP for Red Deer. “Approaching business and government has been very difficult throughout the past year.

“Now we have started over and we are working with Legacy Land Trust and we are in the final stages of setting aside land for an environmental conservation area. “

Mills proposed the project to the Rotary Club when he offered $ 1 million for a legacy project, on the club’s 100th anniversary in 2023. Slack Slough beat 16 other proposals to become the one Rotary would take in charge and would recruit other organizations, businesses, individual donors and government departments to make it happen.

Mills has a strong personal interest in the project. He’s working with Legacy Land Trust so that 140 acres of his property just south of the 98-acre swamp can be incorporated into the protected area. The land trust would be responsible for monitoring and preserving the area in perpetuity.

No one was better placed than Mills, who has lived near the swamp for nearly 50 years, to find that as the city of Red Deer and Red Deer County developed, the wetland was in danger of being surrounded and diminished by development.

Losing or damaging wetlands would mean that a key migratory stop for nearly 100 bird species would be in danger.

“This year has probably been the best migration we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Thousands of geese, including snow geese, sandhill cranes, whistling swans, and many species of ducks and other migratory waterfowl, have called Slack Slough on migrations thousands of miles. A total of 96 species have been identified as using the area.

The importance of the site has long been known. In 1923, the federal government reserved it as a migratory bird sanctuary. Much more recently, it was identified by Red Deer County as an environmentally sensitive area.

But Mills and others behind the project want to do more than preserve the site. They want it to transform into a gateway that showcases environmental innovation while educating the public about the essential role of wetlands.

“It would be a place to teach people about the importance of water, wetlands and nature,” he said. Olds College and Red Deer Polytechnic, the Kerry Wood Nature Center should also be involved.

It is hoped that this message will be spread through a wetland education center which is expected to cost around $ 6 million or more.

Mills said the Rotary Club is in the process of setting up and registering a committee to move the project forward – tentatively called the Rotary Wetlands Education Center – while appealing to the federal and provincial governments for financial assistance.

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