My North Saskatchewan River watermark dates back to 2009. This was around the time Karen and Kevin Lowe, Mark Mattson, and Britt Standen were starting the Riverkeeper organization, based in Edmonton.
I had been asked to join the board of directors for North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. I’m guessing it had more to do with my experience as a co-founder of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper than my knowledge of the river. I didn’t know as much then about the North Saskatchewan River, or Alberta water issues for that matter!
Britt Standen, one of my fellow directors, has a son named Max. At the time, I don’t think he was even old enough to drive a car, but he was really into aircraft and flying. The Standens had a friend with a small helicopter who was willing to take a couple of the Riverkeeper folks up for a 45 minute tour. He promised to give us an aerial view of both Edmonton and the river that flows through it.
I’d never been in a helicopter before. I thought it would be enormous, but it was sleek and relatively small – almost like a mechanical dragonfly. I sat in the back, away from the domed window in front. I had a side window to myself, with an incredible view of the landscape below as we cruised above the North Saskatchewan River.
What immediately struck me as I looked down at the shining river snaking through Edmonton was how completely different this was from Toronto, where I live and work. Toronto sits on the edge of Lake Ontario, but access to the waterfront is extremely limited, either cut off by the 401 and the Gardiner Expressway or dominated by urban development projects. Here, the city looks as though it has been woven around the river; incorporating wonderful green spaces at almost every bend along its course.
The parkland serves a practical purpose. It is a tool for mitigating the damage caused by seasonal flooding. But the presence of all this green space along the river’s edge meant that people here enjoyed more free and easy access to the riverfront than I did my own waterfront in Toronto. The psychological barriers that I was used to didn’t separate water from city in quite the same way.
This view was the first hint of a perspective that would become clear to me on countless return visits to the city: Edmontonians take great pride in their river.
Looking down at that beautiful river and the city that wove around it, I found myself speechless. The uncharacteristic silence must have been worrying for my fellow passengers. Just before we landed, someone turned from the front. “Are you okay?” said a crackly voice over the headset.
Yes. Absolutely, yes.
Krystyn Tully is a director of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. She’s also the co-founder and Vice President of our partner Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. She oversees LOW’s many programs, staff, and volunteers working to create a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario. After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in Radio and Television Arts, Krystyn worked with Mark Mattson as a researcher at the Walkerton Inquiry. She is currently working towards her second degree in Public Administration and Governance.
On behalf of LOW, Krystyn has written many comments on licenses and legislative proposals that have contributed to better decisions and environmental protections. She has appeared before the Federal Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN), and the Ontario Goverment Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. Krystyn has also been a two-time contributer to the Great Lakes Town Hall, an international organization dedicated to identifying and addressing common issues across our shared Great Lakes. For many years, Krystyn Tully was the Lake Ontario Advisor to Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network Fund, now Freshwater Future.
In addition to the day-to-day management of the LOW organization, Krystyn also takes the lead on several of our key ongoing issues alongside Mark. Krystyn oversees LOW’s Clean Water Workshop, a volunteer mentoring program offered to 20 law students each year.
North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project! To check out Krystyn’s Watermark and learn more about the Project, visit the Watermark Project Archive.
To submit a Watermark of your own click here.