For 29 year, Ian Naisbitt taught science to students in grades five to eight – primarily at Concord Elementary School, right near the Little River. Tired with seeing the environmental degradation of this waterway, in 1989, Ian organized the first cleanup of the worst four kilometre stretch of the river. He engaged his students as part of their environmental learning and later enlisting the wider community. That first morning, they filled two dumpsters and it took them two years of semi-annual cleanups before all the large visible garbage was gone. But Ian persevered, and in 1991, the Little River Enhancement Group was formed, with a mandate to clean up the entire 60 square kilometres of watershed and enhance it with trees, bushes and parkland. Social events were staged in the natural setting, trails and pathways were added. Guided walks and tours now connect people to their environment.
Ian continues to serve as Lil’Reg’s President, and under his leadership, volunteers have conducted well over 30 Cleanup Crusades and planted more than 16,000 trees along the river. In fact, the City of Windsor has now proclaimed the area a greenway – a far cry from its original nickname. This community waterway is now a healthier habitat for a variety of wetland species, from turtles and frogs to herons and ducks.
Ian also serves as a member of the Detroit River Canadian Public Advisory Council. He’s a dedicated advocate for the health of the Little River watershed, and the Detroit River. He is an informed, dedicated and proactive supporter, contacting local politicians, writing letters and attending council meetings. Because of his perseverance, he recently was able to coordinate a meeting with City/ERCA/and community groups to ensure the protection, connection and enhancement of the Windsor Airport Woodlots and Provincially Significant Wetland. His nominator describes him as “a leader, a visionary, and an inspiration to other like-minded individuals.”
Ian was quoted in a magazine article as noting that he still receives letters from students, and though they may not remember some of their academic lessons, they still remember their conservation lessons, and have converted them to part of their value system. For these reasons and more, we are delighted to recognize Ian Naisbitt as a Conservation Champion.