When Jim Robertson arrived in Red Deer in 1985 from Lake Louise, he noticed the local population wasn’t too plugged into environmental matters.
Three decades later, as Robertson is about to retire from his job as executive director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, he’s noticed there’s been a giant leap forward in public perception about sustainable energy, alternative transportation, recycling and climate change.
While most of this comes from a growing global movement towards better environmental awareness, Robertson hopes his oversight of the Waskasoo Park Interpretive Program also played a small part in raising understanding in the Red Deer area.
Over the years, Robinson heard many adults say that they’ve learned as much as their children from the Nature Nursery, or other programs aimed at school groups, scouts, guides and various other youth organizations.
“Parents have told us there was a lot of two-way learning,” as their kids shared the information they’d discovered at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre or Gaetz Lake Sanctuary, he said.
When Robertson started his job in Red Deer, the nature centre was just starting to be developed. Robertson helped plan the original display space, as well as an interpretive program for Red Deer’s then-new Waskasoo urban park system.
Last year, the nature centre was renovated and a new museum display was installed. A nature playground was also added, as well as the Harmony Garden music park, built with the help of the Kiwanis Club and Twilight Homes Foundation.
Robertson feels the centre has come full circle, and it’s now a good time to step aside “and let someone with more youthful energy take over.”
Todd Nivens, program co-ordinator for the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, will be moving into his position after Robertson’s retirement next week.
Robertson recalled a controlled burn was done at the centre several years ago to encourage the growth of native grasses instead of the vestiges of hay and other cultivated crops that grew there. He believes more controlled burns will likely be necessary to fully regenerate native vegetation, but “that’ll be up to Todd when he takes over.”
He considers his work for the non-profit Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, which manages the nature centre, sanctuary, Fort Normandeau and the city-wide Waskasoo Parks program, as very fulfilling.
“I was supposed to come here for five years, but my wife and I found this a very good town to raise a family.”
With two grown children, Robertson plans to do some travelling with his spouse, as well as trying his hand at building a canoe and refurbishing an antique sleigh.
Meanwhile, a come-and-go celebration for Robertson will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2 at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Everyone is invited “to join…in wishing him the best in steps toward his next adventure.”