Posted on November 12, 2014 by Tia Lalani

Camrose Canadian: Augustana’s environmental research station is moving ahead, becoming operational by spring.

By Jessica Ryan, Camrose Canadian

1297626789619_ORIGINALAs Dean Allen Berger reported to council Oct. 28, construction on an Augustana Miquelon Lake environmental research station that has been in the works for several years is moving ahead, with an anticipated installation completion of mid to late January, 2015, becoming operational by spring.

Camrose County had given Augustana $25,000 to help launch the project back in 2010. The project then succeeded in getting $75,000 each from Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation and the University of Alberta, as well as $80,000 in philanthropic gifts.

“Augustana has chosen to move ahead with the project, despite a projected budget shortfall on the construction side of approximately $50,000, which is one of the reasons we’re here today,” said Berger. “Any contributions to help put the project over the top would, of course, be appreciated.”

“Augustana…has made a significant committment to community service learning,” said Berger. “Our leadership in this area emerges from a belief in a place-based education that links students to the surrounding community, develops habits of civic engagement and provides students opportunities to contribute in a meaningful manner, helping them also think about job possibilities and strategies for creating rich personal lives for themselves in rural Alberta.”

The station will located on a pre-existing gravel pad and hook up near the park services area at Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, and will be available for use year round.

Glen Hvenegaard, professor of environmental science, outlined the goals, benefits and plans of the centre. The goals include a research focus on rural and environmental sustainability issues, teaching opportunities for both university and BRSD students and collaboration between parks, counties, other universities and various other organizations in attracting grant money.

According to Hvenegaard, various local groups have “touched on a lot of interesting projects that we hope would be appealing to the county and that would be supported by this research station, ranging from recreational use to wetlands to wildlife dynamics, native plants, rural landowners and the like.”

Benefits will include finding rural and local solutions for biodiversity issues, fostering leadership qualities in students and forming community networks.

“Our focus on teaching students in local environments gets them attached to this place, gets them interested in pursuing and maintaining the quality of this place,” he said. “This research station can become a hub, a go-to place for areas and agencies and individuals wanting to solve problems that related to rural sustainability.”

Hvenegaard and some of his colleagues have already submitted proposals to federal agencies hoping to secure funds for projects that could benefit the county directly, such as exploring the efficacy of environmental education activities, the interconnection between wildlife and wetlands or identifying ways to bring agencies together to address rural sustainability.

“The way that we can attract graduate students on specific projects is by having the facility in place, and when we apply for money we can say there’s in-kind support, and, boy, that was able to leverage lots of possibilities. For some graduate students who don’t have a lot of resources, that can be the make or break between going ahead with the project or not.”

Coun. Trevor Miller expressed his support of funding the centre, noting his own time studying at an Athabasca research station guided his own career choices.

“I think it’s a good thing. I’m excited it’s coming to our county,” said Miller.

Reeve Don Gregorwich encouraged council to entertain the request.

“This is a further opportunity to try to attract younger people to come here and to live here,” he said. “That’s kind of a long term vision, but if we don’t do something to work towards that, it’s not going to happen on its own.”

Gregorwich anticipated some rate payers might be skeptical about the return on investment of county money, but said Hvenegaard and Berger had amply demonstrated research projects will benefit the county in the short and long term.

Council voted to refer the request to 2015 budget deliberations in mid November.

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