A legacy in the making

A 25-year plan for conserving water, reducing greenhouse gases and improving Red Deer’s environment overall received city council support on Monday.

A 25-year plan for conserving water, reducing greenhouse gases and improving Red Deer’s environment overall received city council support on Monday.

Civic leaders unanimously endorsed the Environmental Master Plan, a document that will guide city and community actions regarding water, ecology, transportation, built environments, air, energy and waste.

The planning tool was embraced for not only its widespread community input, but also for giving certain targets that Red Deer could work towards by 2015, 2020 and 2035.

Melanie Hare, a consultant with Urban Strategies Inc. of Toronto, said the plan will build Red Deer’s environmental legacy for future generations.

“It’s a community and city-based partnership,” Hare said.

The Environmental Master Plan is meant to streamline city-wide environmental actions and initiatives, improve the City of Red Deer’s environmental performance, and increase environmental awareness among staff and residents.

It will be reviewed annually and results will be reported back to residents.

“It will compel us as a city and as a community towards environmental change,” said Councillor Tara Veer. “There are targets that are very achievable. The plan will hold us accountable for those actions that we say are achievable.”

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said it’s a document that everyone can be proud of.

“We have a lot of champions in the city who are environmentalists… but we have a lot of education we can do,” said Wyntjes, calling upon all residents to do their part.

Councillor Paul Harris called it a “brillant document” and added he looked forward to a dramatic change with the help of residents.

One target — to measure and decrease the use of toxic pest control products on municipally owned land since they contribute to air, water and ground contamination. The City has a baseline or benchmark of 210 ml per acre from 2009 data. By 2015, it would like to reduce that amount by two per cent, five per cent by 2020 and 2035 by 10 per cent.

It also looks at reducing barriers for microgeneration of renewable energy sources, plus creating a community program for vehicles to avoid idling. It recommends working with public sector partners on encouraging on-site rain water collection for irrigation and other uses.

The plan also outlines ways of decreasing the amount of household waste, which is estimated at 183 kg per capita a year. Red Deer would like to reduce that amount by 10 per cent by 2015, 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2035. One way to do that is to decrease the weekly limit of five garbage bags for residential households.

Councillor Chris Stephan hopes the city will seriously address the need to reduce garbage bag limits.

“We’ve heard a lot from the public and myself personally that we need to have better opportunities to recycle,” added Stephan.

Development Services manager Paul Goranson said meeting targets would depend on finances, staff resources and community involvement.

“The priorities could change over time,” said Goranson.

Lauren Maris, project lead, said many residents, community groups and businesses contributed to this important plan. The City of Red Deer will continue to partner with them on ongoing basis.

“There is strength in listening to our community,” said Councillor Cindy Jefferies.

Among those that contributed included the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee, which will continue to be involved in the plan’s implementation.

The living document will change and adapt to new environmental practices as they are discovered.

Consultants estimated six to eight environmental master plans exist across the country, and another 10 to 12 are underway.

“Hopefully we can be leaders in Central Alberta, the province and across Canada,” said Councillor Lynne Mulder.

For more information about the plan, go online at www.reddeer.ca/environmentalmasterplan.