The green and fertile farmland seen from this vantage point on the edge of the Pembina Escarpment was once prehistoric Lake Amasses.
It’s fitting that a place that affords such a view is named for the late Don Alexander, a veteran conservationist and conservation leader.
Alexander, who died from cancer Jan. 20 at age 74, had a vision for conservation and this park, Brendan Carruthers, Manitoba Hydro’s environmental education specialist told a large crowd on hand for the park’s official opening June 26.
“It has finally become a reality today,” Carruthers said.
Alexander pushed for the creation of the Pembina Valley Conservation District (PVCD), while serving as reeve of the R. M. of Thompson.
Once it was formed, he chaired the PVCD from 1989 to 2007 and was still a board member when he died.
Alexander al so chai red the Manitoba Conservation Districts Association from 1997 to 2001.
“We know that Don loved the land and its people and he worked hard to create a sustainable landscape and his voice will echo far into the future,” said Murray Seymour, the PVCD’s current chair. “His efforts will bear fruit for generations to come.”
Alexander, who earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Manitoba, was a high school biology and chemistry teacher for many years, but eventually went farming full time.
Plans to name the park in Alexander’s honour began several years ago, said PVCD manager Cliff Greenfield. Alexander was presented with a plaque commemorating the naming of the park last Dec. 20, just a month before he passed away.
Alexander’s son John said it was only the fifth time in his life he’d seen his dad, known for his gruffness, cry.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for presenting it while he could accept it,” Alexander said on behalf of his mother Thelma, and siblings James, Susanne and George.
Besides the spectacular view, Alexander Ridge Park located 3-1/2 miles west of Miami, has been partly restored with native plants. There’s an observation tower that provides an even better lookout over the valley below. There are plans for self-guiding trails to be added to the 25-acre park.
“We think this will be a great outdoor classroom for young people to learn about nature and conservation,” Greenfield said in an interview.
“We hope everybody takes ownership of this park,” he later told visitors.
“And we look forward to making this place a great place to stop, rest, learn and maybe reflect on this vantage point and the pioneers like Don Alexander who helped shape it.”
John Alexander said his dad truly believed the native proverb that we don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children.
“It is our hope that the people who visit this park and gaze out on the vast plains will be inspired to embrace nature and cherish the soil and water, which we depend on,” he said. “Changing everyone’s attitudes on conservation will not be an easy task, but as Margaret Mead observed, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, in fact, it’s the only way it’s ever been done.”
Susanne Alexander said she was pleased the park’s sign depicts a lighthouse on a rocky shore. While the depiction is more maritime than prairie, it’s a reminder that 12,000 years ago this park was on the edge of a vast sea created by melting glaciers.
A lighthouse also acknowledges Alexander’s leadership style.
“As you all know, Dad was not one to mince his words and not put up with a lot of fluff,” she said. “So in essence Dad was like a lighthouse himself as he had clearly defined goals that cut through the fog like a beacon in the night.” [email protected]