Saturday, September 29, 2012

Citizen engagement with bark and bite in Gatineau, Quebec: I became a Friend of Boucher Forest September 29, 2012

"Can I give your dog a piece of sausage?", a young boy asked as we walked around the dog park next to Jardin Lavigne Park in Aylmer, Quebec on Saturday, September 29. 

He had already waited in the long line up for some free food.

I think Riley said "Yes!"
The neighborhood event with music, entertainment, and food attracted 500-600 people. It was put on by the Fondation Foret Boucher with support from several sponsors to raise awareness about the need to protect and preserve the Boucher Forest and recruit "new" Friends of the Forest.

After talking to event organizers, who are volunteers of the Fondation Foret Boucher, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the 700 acres of Boucher Forest, in the heart of Aylmer, I signed up on the spot. I became a "Friend" of the forest".


Because, only 50 percent of Boucher Forest is safe from what you've seen happening in the City of Gatineau at an alarmingly rapid rate, especially in the last two years. Everything green that can be cut down and built on is being cut down and built on. 

Boucher Forest is the largest urban forest in Quebec

There are lots of trails and seven streams that run through Boucher Forest. I don't want to lose any of it. Do you? My favourite time of year to walk in the forest is winter.
The Aylmer off-leash dog park is surrounded by the Boucher Forest and trails from the park lead into it. This makes the Aylmer dog park one of the most beautiful places to walk your dog.
 As I walked through the extensive trails in Boucher Forest over the last two years, I wondered, "When will they cut this down too? Is there anything we can do about it?"
 It looks like yes.

In 2011, the foundation started "Friends of Boucher Forest" so citizens can join together and give more weight and support to the foundation's mission. Adding my voice, and becoming a "Friend", I suddenly feel less helpless. 

You can find out more about Boucher Forest and become a friend too by visiting their website: Fondation Foret Boucher

Foundation membership is small. Only 100 members. They added 24 more "Friends" at today's event including me. I found the event organizers friendly, dedicated, well-organized, and educated on the forest, ecology, and very good at community engagement. I learned a lot from them today. An event like this is a great way to do it.
While music and entertainment played in the big white tent, free hamburgers and hot dogs, donated by Metro Marche Kelly in Aylmer, were served up by volunteers.
A free BBQ on a beautiful, sunny, fall day and an opportunity to meet important non-profit organizations in our community dedicated to protecting and preserving the things we care about is a big draw in Aylmer.

Also present engaging citizens and providing information:

The Club Canin Aylmer provided free "doggie bags" and dog biscuits and recruited new members. They are a volunteer organization of 204 members after signing up 40 new members during the event. Club Canin Aylmer helps keep the off-leash dog park in Aylmer clean and promotes the interests of dog owners in the City of Gatineau.

Le Club des ornithhologues de l'Outaouais is a non-profit bird watching organization with interests in protecting the natural environment for birds.

L'Association du patrimoine d'Aylmer, is a volunteer citizen group formed in 1974 to promote and preserve the historical character of Aylmer's buildings, old and new.

You can visit the websites of these non-profit organizations to find out more, become a member, or make a donation.

Thanks to these organizations and volunteers for putting on this event and making it easy and fun to get involved in things I care about.

So, where's the bark? 
In the forest on the trees, and in the Aylmer off-leash dog park.

And, where's the bite?
In all those hamburgers and hot dogs!

Enjoy the best of fall!
Peggy Varner, Publisher of WritersBlogque

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