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Shawnigan Lake has Canada’s first Rotary EcoClub

Focused on environmental sustainability, club received charter in June
Shawnigan Rotary EcoClub members celebrate receiving their charter from Rotary International. (Submitted)

The Cowichan Valley’s newest Rotary Club is also the first of its kind in Canada.

The Rotary Club of Shawnigan Lake EcoClub received its charter from Rotary International on June 15, becoming the first branch of Rotary International in Canada with a specific focus on environmental sustainability.

“Rotary is committed to the work of peace, reconciliation and collaboration — for the vibrant health and well-being of all and the environment we share,” EcoClub president Steve Elskens said in his inaugural address at Camp Pringle on June 27. “Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach this historic milestone, to our guest speakers this spring and our environmental stewardship guides, including our community groups here in Shawnigan Lake who have worked tirelessly to serve in creative ways during this pandemic.”

Like most Rotary Clubs, the EcoClub has regular weekly meetings with interactive learning and guest speakers, but the settings and times vary, including outdoor meetings, walk-and-talks, outdoor recreation, and nature- and lake-related activities. The club takes a “down-to-earth, hands-on, boots-on-ground approach to community service.” Dues are $5 per week.

The seeds of the club were first planted in 2018 and 2019 when Kim Barnard, now the secretary for the EcoClub, organized community clean-ups. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnard became more aware of opportunities in the area, and started the push for a new Rotary Club in November 2020.

“You really learn to see the needs and come to realize what you might be able to do to make a transformative difference,” she explained.

The average club member is in their 30s, Barnard said, but they range in age from 22 to 71.

The club was active even before receiving its official charter, helping organize the Shawnigan portion of the Cowichan Clean Up in April 2021. Its other projects include public gardens, such as the space in front of Mason’s Store.

For more information about the club, including a membership application, visit