By Dan Jensen, Camrose Booster
Dr. Roger Epp sees Battle River Community Foundation as being in the business of building reservoirs in dry Eastern Alberta.
"It is about communities working for their own long-term future," said the Augustana dean, who was the speaker at the Battle River Community Foundation’s open house.
Epp said it is important to give people who live in this region the chance to re-invest in their communities and keep wealth in local circulation. He then went on to tell the story of the settlers in the Killam-Iron Creek district, who figured that the way to increase their market share or market power was to start buying things in bulk and unload the boxcars.
"They started their own consumer Co-op. This was at a time when it was not really legal to do this. It was an impairment of trade, so the law said." When the Co-op store burned down, they found they had saved enough to build another one as well as to start the province’s first Credit Union. "They kept local capital in circulation, working for the community," said Epp.
Another more modern example of reservoir building appeared in Epp’s book, We Are All Treaty People. "If you read that book you would have been introduced to a guy who is building a railroad out on the Alliance line, keeping local wealth in local circulation," said Epp. "Building a reservoir. A lot of you are doing that with all of your activity."
Epp presented the image of Battle River Community Foundation and others in the Battle River area, Augustana included, building a chain of reservoirs: all doing the work of capturing wealth, knowledge, young people and opportunity, and making sure they stay around. He compared the work of the Battle River Community Foundation and the Augustana Campus to that of planting trees.
"There is nothing about planting a tree that makes a lot of sense," he said. Planting a tree is doing something for someone else to enjoy. Except that you are glad you planted it when you did. Often you are not around to see how it turns out. Often it would be just as easy to do something else with the money. Why plant a tree? But after you have planted 20 years’ worth of them, it starts to make a nice grove and you are glad you planted them. It might not have made sense at the time. It might have been a crazy symbol. But it is a marker. It creates, in our case, a place that people will return to, a place they will enjoy."
Epp’s final challenge for Battle River Community Foundation supporters was to figure out where in the region they want to be, think of a ring of reservoirs with trees beside them, and imagine the good work they are doing, not just for this year but for generations that will enjoy those places and appreciate their sacrifices. Who will understand that those things represent not simple economic utility but communities in the fullest sense and what they need to flourish. "I don’t think we are finished figuring out what we can do when we bring all of these reservoirs together and do something in this community and in this region that is in our hands to do.”