The Swales (Northeast and Small) have become a hot topic lately as there are plans to develop the areas in and around them. There have been numerous meetings in the last year on this matter. These development plans include the new highway and another new neighbourhood (University Heights 3) and will have a negative impact on the prairie ecosystem of the Northeast Swale. In an effort to prove the value of conserving the Northeast Swale to the public and our government, local and provincial, a few research projects have been undertaken. One such project, by Farzana Q. Nijhum, Dr. Cherie Westbrook, Dr. Kenneth Belcher, and Dr. Bram Noble, titled ‘Valuing the Ecosystem Services of Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale’ identifies ecosystem services provided by the Northeast Swale and found the value placed on them by people in nearby neighbourhoods.
Slightly over 100 homes in Aspen Ridge, Evergreen, and Silverspring were surveyed. The ecosystem services identified in the North East Swale were stormwater runoff storage, biodiversity and habitat for plants and animals, scenery and sense of place, educational and scientific benefits, and recreation and enjoyment. The Societal Benefits from these services were reduced damage from flooding, opportunities for access to nature, and land available for urban development. The NE Swale Attributes from these benefits were total wetland area, paved or unpaved trails and green corridor, and future neighbourhood, respectively.
Results from the survey included the following:
92% said the Northeast Swale is an important natural area in Saskatoon as well as it should be a protected space
93% said impacts to the Northeast Swale should be assessed before any development plans are implemented
88% said the ecosystem services provided by the Northeast Swale are important
91% said good city planning can help protect the ecosystem services provided by the Northeast Swale
Over 70% of the sample population were not aware of development plans in and around the Swale, including University Heights 3, the Saskatoon Freeway, the North Commuter Parkway, trail connections within the Swale, the greenway around the Swale, and the Swale Master Plan.
Monetary values were assigned to ecosystem services and the result of asking how people want to be compensated for the loss of them was that they would want $45 per year per household if a new neighbourhood is developed around the NE Swale and $366 per year per household if there is a major loss of wetlands in the Northeast Swale.
Finally, the sample population was asked what future scenario they wanted to see for the Swale as well. Features they liked the most were no new neighbourhood, a 60-meter wide green corridor surrounding the NE Swale, no change in wetlands, and some natural grass trails. The least liked scenario had a new neighbourhood along the west side of the NE Swale (University Heights 3), no green corridor surrounding the NE Swale, a major loss of wetlands, and no change in recreational trails.
This study contributes to other local views as further support to conserve the area in and around the Northeast Swale, identifies benefits specific to the local neighbourhoods, and further proves that citizens of Saskatoon support the conservation of the Swale and its wetlands. This prairie ecosystem is one of the most endangered and, as such, I feel we need to voice our concerns and encourage the conservation of our local natural lands.
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9