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Vibrant Communities In Focus
Image Credit: Brent Foster
Ottawa River, Ontario

Ottawa River Keeper is an independent watchdog organization that helps protect and promote the eco-health of the powerful and vital Ottawa River. A feisty woman stands at the helm of a humble patrol boat. Meredith Brown has been championing the health of the Ottawa River for three years, taking calls from the public about their concerns. She's building a "community network of river stewards," to help take care of the river wherever it comes through their lives. During the summer of 2006, for instance, more than a hundred people called her hotline to report a major fish kill. "They hadn't seen dead fish washing up on their shores like this in sixty years. The calls were upsetting, but it showed me there's a network starting … a network of concerned citizens, and scientists and lawyers who scrambled to help us, and government agencies who eventually responded. We all need to be concerned about our rivers, not just because they're beautiful, but also because human health is put in jeopardy when the rivers have dodgy effluent dumped into them, or there's questionable development along the flood plains. We're a tiny staff of three, but we're good at lobbying people who can fix the problems or make policy changes. We have a slew of great volunteers and Trillium has been our bread and butter. The river belongs to the community and the community is taking charge!"