Peace Bus Youth Dive into Ottawa River Experience

Ottawa Riverkeeper brought together a group of youth delegates from the CISV Peace Bus to give them hands-on experience with water stewardship.

The CISV Peace Bus pulled into Gatineau just after 9 a.m. on July 22nd.  A group of twelve teens and three adults emerged from the bus and stepped out onto the Brasseurs du Temps parking lot, squinting their eyes in the sun. The Peace Bus is a like a summer sleepaway camp, but it’s constantly on the move from Victoria to all the way to Halifax. 26 days into their 40 day trip, this group was now halfway through their cross-Canada coast to coast drive.

The experience provides learning opportunities for both the high school students and the supervisors, as they make frequent stops in cities across the country in order to engage the youth in educational projects, team building activities and to camp in breathtaking national parks. The goal of the Peace Bus journey is to raise an awareness of how diverse the Canadian experience is and how youth can get involved in their communities.

On their Ottawa/Gatineau stop the Peace Bus crew got their feet wet and hands dirty in Hull’s Brewery Creek. Upon arrival the delegates spread out over a large table on the Brasseurs du Temps patio and were welcomed by city Councillor, Denise Laferrière, Friends of Brewery Creek, Enviro ÉduAction and Ottawa Riverkeeper. Once divided into three teams led by local community members, the groups went along parts of the Brewery Creek shoreline looking for invasive species. The first group worked on identifying and removing Garlic Mustard, while the second hunted and removed pesky ragweed. The last group went with botanist Majella Larochelle to identify other large groupings of invasive species plants that weren’t as easy to remove and tagged their location using a GPS.

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Together they learned that invasive species don’t just push out native species they change chemical make up of the soil. This change makes it easier for the invaders to spread and harder for the native ones to grow.

After this, the hands-on citizen science moved from the shoreline right into the creek itself with the delegates donning hip waders and walking right in. They were on a mission to spot as many different species of plants and animals as possible. Just as they were preparing to embark on their species identification quest, the Riverkeeper staff spotted a snapping turtle and everyone got to see local wildlife up close and personal. Once down in the creek, Meaghan, Ottawa Riverkeeper’s staff scientist, had everyone try out their brand new aquascopes which provide a crystal clear view of the the bottom of the creek where crayfish were seen in abundance!

At the end of their visit, the Peace Bus teens said that their experience at Brewery Creek was unlike anything they had done yet on the CIVS tour or in a classroom and it left them hungry for more.

We hope their experience left them feeling proud about their morning of work for a part of the Ottawa River because it helps with the year round conservation and quality efforts on Brewery Creek. As the teens hopped back in their bus and headed east, we got the sense that they left with the idea that they could act as water stewards in their own watersheds, carrying a message of citizen based care and activism for freshwater all over Canada.