The Wawota District Lions Club discussed the future of their annual quad rally-as a result of three written complaints to provincial conservation authorities-at the club's meeting on Wednesday, May 27, with the club resolving to: “Try to work with the government to find a resolution to the situation,” says Lions Club President, Doug Bourgon. “Within the next two weeks, the Watershed Authority will come out and inspect the area, and the Lions Club will go from there.”
The controversy came about as a result of three letters of complaint, according to Lion Joel Carpenter. “Two unsigned, and one signed.”
Prior to the May 27 meeting, a provincial conservation officer met with members of the Lions executive and informed them of the complaints. The Lions were not charged, but say the concerns stem from Section 36-1 (c) of Saskatchewan's Environmental Management and Protection Act (2002), which states: “Without a valid permit authorizing the activity, no person shall, directly or indirectly: (c) remove vegetation from the bed, bank or boundary of any river, stream, lake, creek, marsh or other watercourse or water body.”
The area that representatives from the Watershed Authority will inspect is a section of the Pipestone Creek and the portion of land above the waterway that belongs to the Crown. The section of land this part of the creek runs through is owned by four landowners, one of whom is Lions Club member, Doug Carpenter.
“The majority of the riders respect the land, and those of us who are landowners care for and respect the environment, too,” says Carpenter. “We wouldn't allow this on our property, otherwise. At the same time, we are trying to meet the challenge of keeping a small community going.”
Fellow Lion Tim Lincoln agrees. “A lot of us are farmers or come from a farming background. We're concerned about the environment and the health of the environment, too.”
This year's rally-the club's tenth- raised $18,058. The annual fundraiser averages a profit of $15,000 per year; and the Lions use these funds to support community projects within Wawota, as well as assisting area individuals in need, usually with medical expenses.
Other local community organizations partner with the Lions on the day of the rally-making and selling meals and setting up and manning a quad-washing station-to raise funds for their groups.
“I'm very disappointed,” said Lions Club member, Joel Carpenter. “It's a small community fundraiser that brings an average of $15,000 into Wawota every year. And it's not local money; it's money that comes from places from both inside and outside the province, that directly benefits our
area. That's the thing that is so frustrating; the money that has come into the community over the past 10 years is 'outside' money.”
“It's not money that comes from our community. It's money that directly benefits our town, and it all comes from elsewhere,” says Lincoln. “The rally also brings people to Wawota and they get a chance to see our town and the area and what we have to offer.”
A letter from the Town of Wawota concurs with this assessment. The letter was read at the meeting, stating the town's official support of the rally, as well as a pledge to contact the MLA for Cannington, Dan D'Autremont, to lobby in favour of the event.
The Wawota Wildlife Federation has also placed an ad in Wawota's 'News in a Minute', stating: “The Wawota Wildlife Federation wish to notify the public that they had nothing to do with the writing of the letters that shut down the Wawota Lions' Annual Quad Derby.”
Wawota resident Donovan Pryce has started an online petition, “Allow the Wawota Annual Quad Rally!” on Change.org, which at press time has gathered 1,564 signatures.
“If the rally is cancelled, at the end of the day, it isn't the Wawota Lions that will suffer,” says Joel Carpenter. “It's the community, because that's an extra $15,000 a year that won't be around to be spent within the community. There have been people from all over Saskatchewan and Manitoba that have come and enjoyed this great day and we appreciate he support.”