Southeast Environmental Association looks to engage public and boost volunteer numbers

by Luke Kenny   Oct 22, 2015, The Eastern Graphic

Annual General Meeting on Saturday, October 24 at 10am at the Access PEI

MacLure’s Pond is a water quality site monitored by the Southeast Environmental Association in Murray River. Photo by Heather Moore.


The Southeast Environmental Association (SEA) has seen some changes in their organization recently and they are looking for new members, volunteers and donations.

Jackie Bourgeois is the executive director of SEA and wants to increase the presence of the organization because many people who have lived in the area their whole lives know little about it.

“Since I started in 2012 I realized there was this gap in communication,” she said.

“A lot of people think of a watershed group as being stream enhancement only but really we’re focused on community development.”
SEA is a non-profit organization established in 1992 to protect, maintain and enhance the ecology of southeastern PEI for the environmental, social and economic well-being of PEI residents.

SEA manages an area covering approximately 731 square kilometres which includes six major watersheds: Boughton, Cardigan, Brudenell, Montague-Valleyfield, Sturgeon and Murray Rivers, as well as 26 sub-watershed systems.

With 13% of total land coverage, it is the largest watershed management region on the Island.

“It’s challenging to do anything without community support. We need the volunteers, we need people to be engaged,” Ms Bourgeois said.

The group needed a facelift to hopefully get people interested, so they aren’t focused on stream work only, and are looking to engage youth.

Partnering with Montague High School, PEI Berries Limited and UPEI, SEA created a Pollinator Park located in a field and woodland between Access PEI and the high school in Montague that’s accessible to the public.

“Pollinators are in a bit of a crisis worldwide, they’re on the decline. So this outdoor classroom is an educational site for students to come out and have part of their curriculum become part of the classroom.”

The school’s carpentry class helped build the flowerbeds and will be building a gazebo and other structures for the garden.

“They’re engaged that way and the community will be engaged. We’ll be holding workshops and gardening seminars, among other things,” Ms Bourgeois said.

The Harvey Moore Wildlife Sanctuary in Milltown Cross is another project the association is developing, with walking trails, interpretive signage, fishing and other things for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.

This past summer SEA employees developed a trail system that will be incorporated into future children’s programs offered at the site.

“We need people to raise money, people who are interested and people who want to use the trails,” Ms Bourgeois said.

Trail development and trail connectivity off the Confederation Trail is something they’re looking at, but it’s always funding dependent.

SEA doesn’t have core funding, so they’re always trying to raise funds, apply for grants and do projects.

The organization is trying to do things for local people because they are the ones who are going to sustain it.

“If there’s a little bit of benefit that the tourists find it interesting, that’s great too.”

SEA is also planning a watershed management plan for the six primary regions of the organization in 2016.

“That’s a challenge because it’s a huge area. There hasn’t been any engagement done in a number of years, so the whole idea of the new look and where we’re going is just to have people a little bit more interested,” Ms Bourgeois sad.

SEA also has a new logo that reflects the pillars of sustainability, the balance between social, economic and environmental aspects.

“Watersheds are not just about streams, rivers, land and sky. For us that’s the change. It’s about sustainability in our area.”

The wave and leaf on the logo represent the environment (land & sea); the sailboat represents economic development and recreation; the person represents society and culture, and it is encircled by a water drop on which all life depends.

SEA is also going to have a more interactive website, more information available on Facebook and Twitter and opportunities for people to become involved.

“We have activities for people to do that’s not necessarily stream enhancement related. I think it’s important for people to know in the area what we’re doing,” Ms Bourgeois said.

SEA will host its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, October 24 at 10am at the Access PEI on Wood Islands Hill in Montague. The public is encouraged to attend.

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October 22, 2015