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Save Our Seine celebrates 30 years of cleaning up the Winnipeg River

Save Our Seine celebrates 30 years of cleaning up the Winnipeg River


Grassroots organisations have been working to clean and maintain the Seine for over 30 years.

Thirty years ago, the first Save Our Seine summer team was formed. In the decades since, Save Our Seine teams have been rafting on the river during the summer months.

Their goal: to clean up the waterway that winds through southeast Winnipeg.

“This is right in the heart of Winnipeg, but when you're paddling and walking the trails you wouldn't think you were in the city,” says Monique Ellison, Save Our Seine summer team coordinator.

“We go down the river in canoes. We remove logs and fallen trees from the river and collect trash and debris from the river.”

In the 20th century, the Seine became a dumping ground for everything from household garbage to industrial waste.

“For years, even centuries, it's fair to say the river has been viewed as something we turned our backs on and forgotten about,” said Ryan Palmquist, the organization's managing director.

But in 1990, residents had had enough and formed an organization called Save Our Seine. Four years later, the first summer team set sail.

“It was a foundational job,” says Jared Whelan, who joined the company the following year in 1995. “It was the beginning of saving the Seine, and I enjoyed being a part of it. It was my first environmental job.”

Whalen said the continued work of Save Our Seine is vital.

“The residents along the route appreciate it, but the rest of the city doesn't necessarily know how important it is and how beautiful it is,” he said. “I'm glad I got my first job. I'm glad they're still here. I'm glad it's cleaned up here.”

The current team does more than just pick up trash: Ellison said they're committed to preserving the ecosystem.

“It's really beautiful to see the river start to flow again after removing the logs and obstructions in the river.”

Though the group has been around for 30 years, Palmquist said it has no plans to slow down.

“A lot of effort has been put into cleaning the Seine, but even if you send staff every year, every June the rubbish comes back,” he said. “So if this work stops, if the Society to Save the Seine disappears, someone will need to create the Society to Save the Seine.”

To mark this milestone, Save Our Seine is asking volunteers, team members and local residents to sign an oar that will be sent to France for the Paris Olympics, Palmquist said, marking the effort to save another part of Paris' Seine.




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