Urban Habitat Dedication focuses on local wildlife heritage

The dedication of the Urban Habitat Project in Canora was held on October 3 by the River Ridge Fish and Game League. The cairn at the site states, “This Memorial Woodland is dedicated to the River Ridge Fish and Game members who have gone before us.”

Kathy Thomas, River Ridge president, welcomed members and guests in attendance. Guest included: Terry Dennis, former Mayor of Canora; Canora Mayor Jim Vewchar and Larry Pfliger, one of the directors of Region 3 of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF).

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“Terry Dennis, when he was Canora’s Mayor, helped us with the creation of the Urban Habitat Project,” said Thomas.

She also introduced Naomi Paley, a River Ridge member who was instrumental in creating the project.

“In the spring of 2007, after receiving permission from the Town of Canora to develop this property, River Ridge Fish and Game began work on this educational and interpretive green space called the Urban Habitat Project,” said Paley. “The intent of the project was to promote the importance of wildlife habitat to our local community and youth. It was also an important way for River Ridge to give something back to the community that has supported so many of our fundraisers and projects over the years.” 

The initial concept was to take an unused piece of property and develop it into an interpretive walking trail that explained the importance of wildlife habitat to the local environment, as well as creating awareness about habitat conservation and “the respect that these ecosystems deserve.”

“The project brought together collaboration from Ducks Unlimited Canada, the former PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) Shelterbelt Centre and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation,” continued Paley. “Locally, partnerships with the town of Canora and students from the Canora Junior Elementary School allowed us to plant trees, design interpretive signage and develop the walking path. The Urban Habitat Project was officially opened in the spring of 2009.” 

Thomas told those in attendance that River Ridge was looking for a way to honour those members who came before and made the club what it is today.

“After much discussion, we decided that this spot on the Urban Habitat project would be a fitting place to create a memorial woodland to commemorate those members who have passed,” said Thomas.

“Soil tests have enabled us to determine what species of trees will do well on this site and additional tree plantings to enhance the woodland are planned for this coming spring. To mark this Memorial Woodland, the cairn has been erected to serve as a reminder of those friends and family who shared our vision, ‘To ensure the wildlife legacy we leave our children surpasses what which we inherited.’

“I would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to some people. To Damon Paley, who keeps the weeds down in our tree plantings; to Doug Lapitsky for spearheading the cairn project and to the Town of Canora Public Works staff who do an amazing job of keeping the grass cut, thank you all for your commitment.”

With social distancing in mind, Naomi Paley led the attendees in a prayer of dedication.

“Heavenly Father, we are so thankful to you for giving us the opportunity to gather here today amongst the beauty of Your creation.

“As we look around, we are amazed at all that You have made. The incredible colours of the morning and evening sky, the earthy scent of the forest and the cool, clear depth of the lakes and streams all speak of Your grand design. You have provided us with such beauty in the flowers and fields and such bounty in the animals, birds and fish.

“Bless the hands that have helped us along the way and help us to show our love and reverence to You, by caring for all that You have created and remembering those who also shared in this work. 

“We humbly ask this in Jesus name, Amen.”

On behalf of the SWF, Larry Pfliger emphasized the importance of the Canora Urban Habitat Project in showing the value of wildlife habitat to both young and old, and to express appreciation for the support the community has given to the River Ridge Branch.

“In this you have been more than successful,” said Pfliger.

“This Memorial Woodland encompasses much more than that. It will be home and shelter for birds and mammals. It adds beauty and cleans the air you breathe. It is a space where you can learn and teach your children to co-exist with nature. It is a space were people can come to reflect on all that is good in the world. And it can sooth and calm your mind and soul. In other words, it is the epitome of everything that is good and wholesome about nature.”

Pfliger highlighted the cairn which honours past members for their hard work toward the 

betterment of the River Ridge Branch and the Canora community. 

“By installing the cairn, you give your children the chance to not just look ahead to the future, but also look back and come to know the history and value of past members and what they have done for the branch and this community,” continued Pfliger. “These past members worked hard to make sure the wildlife legacy they left to their children surpassed that which they inherited. You built this Urban Habitat Project as a living, breathing legacy that will be used by the current generation and for future generations to be enjoyed and valued for years to come.

“So on behalf of the past members, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation and all its members, we thank you.”