Connecting with municipal staff who are committed to protecting the environment is one of the most satisfying work activities I’ve engaged with all year.
Last week, we ran a conference in Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., called “Raising the Blue Flag in BC: Linking recreational shoreline management goals and strategies to achieving the Blue Flag award”. The Blue Flag is a well known, prestigious award that recognizes those beaches and marinas that have achieved international standards in water quality, environmental management, environmental education, and safety and services.
Harrison Hot Springs was the first B.C. community to join Blue Flag when they achieved candidate status
last year. As a resort town, Harrison Hot Springs depends on tourism. Robert Reyerse, Executive Director of Tourism Harrison, explained, one of his main interests in the Blue Flag program is it builds Harrison Hot Springs’ reputation as a sustainable community: “In a crowded tourism space, Blue Flag offers something new, and credible, to rejuvenate the Harrison Hot Springs brand.” The B.C. municipal staff in attendance agreed that their “problem” was that they ALL had beautiful beaches, mountains, and hiking trails. They want to differentiate their communities and attract new visitors. If they can meet the rigorous Blue Flag criteria
, the Blue Flag can help put them on a new, green map, and support their sustainability agendas.
The attendees’ enthusiasm for what the Blue Flag offers confirmed what a terrific program it is. As B.C. Ministry of the Environment staff biologists Liz Freyman and Sheldon Reddekopp reminded us, there is no shortage of brilliant high-level marine and shoreline plans. But there is seldom formal recognition for the local stewardship, planning, and the coordination that goes into prioritizing and rehabilitating shoreline environments. The Ministry of the Environment staff presentations made it clear that in order to keep water clean, municipalities must insist on Low Impact Development
techniques in new subdivisions, and should protect wetlands, forests and green space around rivers and shorelines. The Blue Flag can help to motivate action being taken on these fronts.
The friendly B.C. conference attendees were keen on Blue Flag because it provides international recognition for those places that are motivated to pull together a Blue Flag team and succeed in meeting Blue Flag’s criteria. They have to coordinate litter and recycling collection on Blue Flag beaches, water quality measurement and reporting, environmental education activities and ecosystem protection, public signage and safety assessments and services. And ideally, they take care to keep water clean upstream in conformity with the high–level marine and shoreline plans and policies. So when a community, like Harrison Hot Springs takes the initiative to conduct these activities, the recognition that their community is committed to sustainability through programs like Blue Flag is cause for celebration!