Sustainability Commission Update: Earth Day, The State of Rossland project, and the economic impact of our beloved trails system

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
April 11th, 2011

Move over Earth Hour and make room for Earth Day, to be celebrated this year on April 22. Launched in the US in 1970 as an environmental awareness campaign, this yearly event now touts 1 billion participants worldwide – with 6 million of those in Canada. Nationwide events like community waterways clean-ups, walks, and thousands of private, school, and employee group events focus on spending time taking some kind of action to promote environmental awareness.


This year, Rossland’s Sustainability Commission will be organizing an afternoon and evening filled with Earth Day activities for the whole family. The organization has partnered with Rossland Real Food and Neighbourhoods of Learning to create a busy itinerary that will involve events such as an Earth Walk, an information expo, and a community pot luck with live music. Other ideas include a “chicken walk” hosted by Rossland Real Food, where participants can tour some of the local homes who raise chickens and get ideas and inspiration for starting their own poultry adventures.


“We’re inviting organizations, non-profits, some businesses, some individuals to come and share information about what they’re doing with some sort of earth and environmental theme to it,” says Leah Thuot, the Sustainability Commission’s manager, of the planned information expo. Some of the obvious organizations invited are the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society and Friends of the Rossland Range, but Thuot says there are some individuals in town making some key environmentally-friendly changes that have great ideas to share. “There’s a couple of solar businesses in town, and there’s a family in town that have transferred their vehicle over to veggie oil. So a real mix of stuff.” There will also be door prizes and draws.


MacLean Elementary is spending the week leading up to Earth Day doing a bunch of activities to celebrate the event, like writing poetry, making art, and the choir is working on a few songs. The end product of these projects will be showcased at the information expo.


The day will end with a community pot luck. “We invite people to bring a dish of some sort and have a big community Earth Day celebration with some good music and some good food, and chance to meet your neighbours. It’ll be a real packed afternoon and evening but it will be a lot of fun.”


The location is not yet set, however, but the two places in the running are the RSS auditorium and the Miners’ Hall. Thuot hopes to get confirmation of the location by tomorrow.


The Sustainability Commission is in the midst of a busy spring, with a couple of other items of note on its agenda. The State of Rossland project, which started in the fall of 2009, is in its final stages, and currently there is a survey being conducted to gather information on how the community thinks the commission and the city is doing on making Rossland sustainable. The survey asks Rosslanders to grade the commission on 32 indicators that measure Rossland’s progress towards sustainability and implementation of the town’s Strategic Sustainability Plan. Some of the indicators are Transit Ridership, Housing Affordability and Core Housing Needs, and Student Enrollment.


“We’re looking for the community to help identify areas we want to focus on first or what are the areas we’re not doing well on. So this survey is asking people to grade each of the 32 indicators from “excellent” all the way through to “fail.” This final grading piece will really help with the next steps that will come out of this project.” After the data is gathered, they will be gathered into a report that will be presented to the Sustainability Commission and then sent on to council. The survey is available online until April 15, and there are hard copies available at City Hall, too.


Thuot notes that the commission has been very impressed with community input during the State of Rossland project. “We’ve been really pleased. It’s been a long process and there’s been a lot of community involvement required for it. It’s great to see the community hang in there with the project and stay involved and engaged with the process until the end. It just makes the final outcome so much richer and so much more valid and useful.”


Finally, have you ever wondered about what the economic impact of our wonderful mountain biking and hiking trails system might be? Well, one of the Sustainability Commission’s four task forces, the Economic Development Task Force, has partnered with Tourism Rossland and the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society to try to find out. These three organizations are preparing a study of the impact the local trails system has on Rossland’s economy. This will be part of a larger provincial study put on by Tourism BC on the economic impacts of mountain biking. Again, a survey will be involved.


“[Tourism BC] will have standard questions that will be used in communities across the province,” Thuot explains, “but then each community will also get [an opportunity] to ask some of their own local-specific questions. So in that part we want to expand it to not just look at  mountain bikers because there are others who use the trails system. Similar questions will be for those folks who use the trails but who aren’t necessarily mountain bikers.”


One of the hopes is that the survey will garner some numbers on what kind of impact our trails system has on people’s decisions to relocate to Rossland, particularly after the task force’s study last year on nomadic entrepreneurs.


The survey will be conducted this summer and the trio of organizations behind it locally will have staff manning various trail heads to conduct interviews with users and gather information.


“I think it’s going to be very interesting,” says Thuot, “and I think it’s a great partnership between the three organizations.” Tourism Rossland will be able to use the information for marketing purposes, KCTS can use the gathered information for funding purposes, and the Economic Development Task Force will be able to have specific information on numbers also for promotional purposes.


For more information on the Sustainability Commission and the State of Rossland project, as well as its other initiatives, check out their website

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