Walking in a winter wonderland can also be a gateway to a natural environment and Red Deerians have the chance to learn about what surrounds them every day.
Todd Nivens, Waskasoo environmental education society programs co-ordinator, said the best thing someone interested in nature can do is go stand at the top of Michener Hill and look out across the city to the west and realize the city exists completely immersed in a natural environment.
“You don’t have to go to Banff to see nature,” said Jim Robertson Waskasoo environmental education society executive director. “Nature is right in your own backyard and it’s free and it’s something you can have fun in.”
The Waskasoo environmental education society, which aims to educate the public on environmental, natural history and sustainability issues so when they make their life decisions, recreation decisions, housing decisions and consumer decisions that they keep nature and the environment in mind.
“We’re trying to make the world a better place through environmental education and heritage interpretation,” said Robertson.
The mandate given to the society from the city is to work with all age groups and try and get them interested in all aspects of their natural and human heritage.
“It gives people, who may normally be sitting playing on their Nintendo or watching television, a chance to get outside and participate in non-motorized recreation, have good fun in winter and realize winter is a neat time of year,” said Robertson.
Among the society’s initiatives are pre-school programs, school-aged programs, adults programs, family programs, community based special events, fundraisers for the community at large and seniors programs.
As well they make sure there is a park interpreter at each park throughout the summer.
“By putting people in to close contact with nature, especially at an early point in their lives, they learn there is an intrinsic value to it,” said Nivens.
“They learn by being out in a snow covered field or a snowy forest, they learn to appreciate these habitats exist and they exist all around it.”
Anyone can go to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and tour the exhibits, speak with interpreters, walk through the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary for free, they are funded by tax revenues.
“One of the things Red Deer has been particularly good at over the years is developing in concert with natural environments,” said Nivens.
“We have really good buffers around our creek areas. We have planners and the parks department who have made really good things like wildlife corridors.”
Nivens said every day there is a chance for everyone to be in a natural environment by virtue of going out their front doors.
Nivens said it is a fun job because he gets to play outside most days of the week.
“We’re dealing with happy people, we’re doing something we think have intrinsic worth in itself,” said Robertson. “We’re helping people have a better life on their own and we’re hoping to leave the world a better place by the time we’re done with it.”