With National Volunteer Week under way, 45 University of Guelph students are being honoured as Wetland Heroes for rebuilding a section of the boardwalk in Hanlon Creek Park. 

Project Serve volunteers pose for a group photo on a boardwalk.
The 2019 Project Serve team that helped repair boardwalks along the Hanlon Creek trail

A title granted by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Wetland Heroes are youth leaders of wetland conservation projects. DUC recognizes individuals, classes, schools or community youth clubs or groups as active partners who are protecting wetlands. 

In fall 2021, the U of G students worked with the City of Guelph to restore 40 metres of the boardwalk in Hanlon Creek Park as a part of Project Serve, a U of G initiative that enables students to volunteer with service organizations in the Guelph-Wellington area.  

“It was wonderful to receive this award as we only intended to help the community and it turned out to be beneficial in other ways,” said Naomi Fernandes, a fourth-year co-op student at U of G who helped to coordinate the Hanlon Creek Project Serve Day.  

Project Serve is a decades-long initiative organized by U of G’s Student Volunteer Connections in the Experiential Learning Hub. More than 6,000 students have contributed more than 18,000 hours of volunteer work as part of U of G’s theme of “Improve Life.” 

Kate Belmore, the national education coordinator at DUC, spotted local media coverage about the boardwalk work and set out to recognize the volunteers as Wetland Heroes. 

“It’s great to see the work that’s been done to protect the wetland in Hanlon Creek Park. Now with this new boardwalk in place, people can visit the wetland without disturbing the ecosystem,” she said. 

Ducks Unlimited Canada logo: on a white background there is a green outline of a duck's head with a red maple leaf below the beak. The black text reads: "Ducks Unlimited Canada".
Ducks Unlimited Canada is one of the largest and longest-standing conservation organizations in North America.

“It’s so important that we protect our wetlands. Canada holds 25 per cent of the world’s wetlands, and they play an absolutely critical role in cleaning our water, providing habitat for wildlife and protecting our communities from flooding.” 

The letters and certificates the volunteers will receive not only recognize their efforts but inspire them to take further action to conserve wetlands – the overall goal of the Wetland Heroes program.  

Students are invited to follow U of G Experiential Learning on Instagram and Twitter for more information about Project Serve and its upcoming events with the Green Legacy Programme and the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. Project Serve events are also posted on GryphLife and on the Student Volunteer Connections webpage