A big job as caretaker of our natural environment.
A stroke of "genius," is how Paul Sajatovic describes the vision and determination of community-minded citizens who worked together in the 1960s to secure 2,415 acres of public land around Lake Ramsey for the enjoyment of all citizens. Lake Laurentian Conservation Area's green space, Lake Laurentian, nature trails, wetland areas, hiking trails, bird-watching areas, and snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails are a treasure that everyone can share.
This area would have likely been developed into subdivisions and lost forever to the citizens of Greater Sudbury if not for the original members of the Junction Creek Conservation Authority, says Sajatovic, who as general manager of Nickel District Conservation Authority (NDCA) oversees a small but mighty staff of nine.
In 1973, the Junction Creek Conservation Authority merged with the Whitson Valley Conservation Authority to create the NDCA.
The winner of the 2012 Community Builders Award of Excellence in the Environment category is not one person but many who have been involved with the organization over the past 54 years as staff, board members, funding agents, community partners and volunteers.
Sajatovic has been with the conservation authority since 1979. Chairs of the general board have included Colin Caswell, Rhéal Proulx, Stan Hayduk, Bob Parker, Ron Bradley, and since 2007, Bob Rogers.
The conservation authority has a big job as caretaker of our natural environment. Its mandate includes regulating development in flood-prone and hazardous areas, and providing flood control and flood monitoring services for the safety and well-being of residents. Most recently, it has been leading the development of the Municipal Drinking Water Source Protection Plan.
The organization leads the Greater Sudbury Climate Change Consortium and works with many partners to assess potential impacts of climate change and to determine how to best build adaptation capacity in the community.
Educating future generations about the importance of conservation is also a big part of its mandate. The authority provides environment education programs for elementary and secondary students in both English and French, and operates Camp Bitobig, an outdoor environmental day camp for children.
NDCA also supports the work of its many community partners including the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee.
"The Junction Creek Stewardship Committee has benefited enormously from the support of the NDCA, says co-ordinator Sarah Woods. "From housing our office in our infancy to providing technical support advice on current projects... (we) could not operate successfully without their support."
David Courtemanche, the former mayor and chair of the Connect the Creek Partnership, the group working to complete the Junction Creek Waterway Park, says, "Paul Sajatovic and Bob Rogers demonstrate the kind of leadership that sets Greater Sudbury apart from other cities....Sudbury is viewed as an environmental leader and conservation authority, in part, because of their leadership."
NDCA recently completed a strategic plan for the next five years. This included a rebranding strategy which includes a new name: Conservation Sudbury.
The name is bilingual and better reflects the current and future direction of the organization, says Sajatovic.
The strategic plan calls for Conservation Sudbury to develop new partners, increase public awareness, and to create a volunteer auxiliary called Friends of Lake Laurentian.
The Friends were established in October 2011. Its vision is to maintain Lake Laurentian Conservation Area as a living, accessible and valuable natural community learning resource for present and future generations, promote healthy sustainable watersheds, an active living and wellness lifestyle, and an appreciation of nature through the support and advocacy of many champions.