FCM Study Tours, Day Two

The second full day of the FCM Conference in Saskatoon started out with a plenary session in the main theatre at TCU Place dealing with resolutions.  In a flurry of activity, pre-discussed "be it Resolved that..." policy statements along with a number of emergency (or emerging) resolutions were debated and voted upon by the delegates present.  Much like during the similar session that happened at the AUMA conference last fall, I was struck by the passion and knowledge of colleagues who rose up from across the country to defend and debate a number of important positions that will help inform the federal government's actions in the coming years.

Business taken care of, I was happy to get outside into the fresh warm air - the weather has been remarkable since we arrived in Saskatoon on Thursday - and stand in the queue, hoping to get on the bus for the Meewasin Valley and River Landing study tour.  Predictably, the tour that I had put myself on the waiting list for was sporting the largest line-up, but I managed to get on the bus - every nook and cranny spoken for within minutes as we crammed together, kindly ignoring the body heat we were generating.

"Ladies and gentlemen," started the host at the front of the bus.  "A number of people are here who actually signed up for this tour.  If you were not on the list, I would kindly ask you to give up your seats."

There was a moment's pause, then a mass exodus as probably one-third of the people got up and departed.  Knowing that my name was legitimately on the waiting list, I stuck it out and was lucky enough to tag along.

The Meewasin Valley is an impressive ribbon of green that stretches nearly 60 kilometres, from Pike Lake in the southwest to Clark's Crossing in the northeast, following the meandering path of the mighty South Saskatchewan River through the City of Saskatoon and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park.

Piled shoulder to shoulder in the bus, traveling along Spadina, feeling the welcomed cooling breeze coming through the opened windows, we made our way to the boardwalk that starts at the Weir and ends at the CPR Bridge.

The Weir, built during the Great Depression as an excuse to provide some much-needed employment, controls the flow of water and offers an outstanding fishing opportunity for the American White Pelican.  Every spring, this once threatened species returns to this spot, where fish are gathered in large numbers attempting to jump the Weir, and stay until early fall.

Continuing north, we made our way to Capilano Lookout to enjoy an impressive view of the entire valley and both sides of the river that the Meewasin Valley Authority - now three decades along in its mandate to conserve the cultural and natural resource of the South Saskatchewan River valley - has brilliantly preserved and made accessible.

We had been given a glimpse of the River Landing project the day before on our walking tour, but the final leg of this Meewasin (Cree word for beautiful) Valley Authority experience would take my understanding and appreciation of this impressive amenity to a whole new level.

What was a derelict and dodgy area a decade ago is now a pristine park that offers tremendous river views and multiple activity nodes that have completely changed the flavour of this area of downtown.

There are a number of things that impressed me on our tour of River Landing:

The splash park is not only an attractive activity for families, it is also an interpretive feature, celebrating the history and geography of the South Saskatchewan River.

The bridge promenade that arcs out over the river provides programmable space for special events, weddings, beer gardens, and myriad other activities without impeding the flow of walkers, as there is a mainland path that allows them to continue on.

Mitigation efforts have turned a contaminated power plant site into a safe and valuable asset for the City of Saskatoon.

I could go on and on about the River Landing project, complete with the vision for what will surround it in the coming years.  If it is impressive today; it will be more impressive in the coming years, as a first-class hotel gets built along with the new Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.  Attached to the existing Remai Arts Centre - home to Persephone Theatre - the new gallery is going to rise up from the dirt thanks to a $30 million donation from the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation.

"This is the cleanest city I've ever been in," whispered one of the delegates as we were wrapping up the study tour, an observation that should make the people of the City of Saskatoon very proud.

In the afternoon, I was successful in finding a seat on the Innovative Partnerships in Leisure and Recreation study tour.  And apart from enjoying a tour of the SaskTel Centre, with its impressive indoor fieldhouse, and the Shaw Centre, with the largest pool facility in the City, I really enjoyed sitting with Barry Becker, CAO of Port Coquitlam.

SaskTel Centre

Shaw Centre

It turns out that Barry, originally from Big River, Saskatchewan, could be related to some possible relatives of mine back in Kamsack.  

"I have a big thick history book that would probably help," I said.

"Is it about this big?" he asked, indicating a tome of significant girth.

"Yes," I said.  "It's a big book with a blue cover."

"I think I remember seeing that book."

Barry's grandfather was Clarence Becker.  The question we have to answer is whether Clarence had a brother named Arnold.  Arnold was the Mayor of Kamsack back in the day.  How and if Arnold is directly related to me is a foggy question - our connection is likely through marriage - but I thought it was fun we could share some common history.

With Barry Becker

It is a small world indeed. Do you think we look like we could be related?


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