Wildlife Federation has plans for their new home

The historic schoolhouse for the South Weyburn community has a new owner, the Weyburn Wildlife Federation, and they are making plans to use the building and property, along with continuing to offer it to the public for rental use.

The former school served as a community centre for many years, hosting over 105 years of Christmas programs along with being a venue for reunions, barbecues, church groups and many other community and family events.

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The building and grounds will still be available for the community as before, and the Wildlife Federation hopes to make use of it for their organization, such as for their monthly meetings, fish fries and regional events for the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, said Tim Kerslake, president of the Weyburn Wildlife Federation.

The group held an open house at South Weyburn on Saturday, as they hosted a barbecue, with a make-shift archery range set up and the “Hooked on Fishing” information trailer from the local Conservation office.

One of the future plans the Weyburn group has is to develop and build a 40X150-foot heated indoor archery range on the property, which currently includes the schoolhouse, a gazebo and playground.

There are plans to make updates to the gazebo, and to provide power for campers to use, said Kerslake, noting that the Federation currently has 395 members.

The organization began in the 1950s as the Weyburn Fish and Game League, changing to the Wildlife Federation.

The group did bird releases and fish enhancement, and for about 20 years they raised and released pheasants. Hunter education was provided by Len Olfert and Ken Dodd, and Fred Garner helped to spearhead the planting of trees, such as for shelterbelts and windbreaks, from the Weyburn area down to Maxim and around Nickle Lake.

The Weyburn chapter was involved with the Saskatchewan Federation’s fish hatchery at Qu’Appelle, and for 25 years had a fish-rearing pond near Nickle Lake.

Members Joe Honig and Vic Tremblay helped to coordinate deer feeding for about 10 years, during winters when the Weyburn area received heavy snowfalls.

Longtime members Morley Forsgren and Kelly Kozij have been heavily involved in the group’s archery club, which offers the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) in the Weyburn area, and are providing archery lessons to anyone who would like to learn about the sport.

NASP is offered in 177 schools from Grades 4 and up, but in Southeast Cornerstone, it is only available to Grades 10-12 in school, so Forsgren and Kozij have set up the beginners archery lessons for younger students aged nine and up.

Registration for the archery lessons will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Queen Elizabeth School, and there will be two sessions of lessons offered. The first session will run from Oct. 23 to Nov. 29, and the second session will go from Jan. 8 to Feb. 14, 2019, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at QE School.

This will be the fifth year for the archery lessons, but it will be first time they are offering two sessions, in order to increase the number of available spots for those interested in learning about archery.

As Forsgren explained, the lessons will teach the fundamentals of archery, such as the safety rules needed, the proper stance and technique, using the Genesis compound bow that any age can use.

The lessons have been helpful to many youth, particularly those who have no interest or ability to compete in team sports, or those with ADHD or similar disabilities, as it helps them to focus and to have fun as they learn.

“It can help youth who have trouble focusing. This helps them to slow down and focus on what they’re doing in a controlled environment. They’re with other students. It’s not really a team sport, but it’s a group activity the way it’s structured,” said Kozij, pointing that any child or adult of any ability can take up the sport of archery.

He has helped officiate at the national NASP competition when it was held in Regina, and recalled one competitor had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair. She had the bow mounted so that she could shoot the arrows and take part in the competition.

Forsgren noted he saw one competitor who was legally blind, and counted off the distance from the firing line to the target. He was able to at least see the shape of the target, and took part in archery competitions.

“It gives them something they can compete in that they wouldn’t be able otherwise,” said Forsgren.

“Archery is a level playing field. They all have the same abilities to start with,” added Kozij.

The lessons are supervised and take place in a highly-structured environment, with strict attention to safety protocols to ensure all participants are safe.

In addition to the archery lessons, the archery club also has 3-D shooting competitions in the spring and summer, plus the Federation operates an indoor shooting range at the Goodwater curling rink. Members are provided with the lock combination and can go in to shoot anytime they want to. Memberships are $100 a person or $150 a family, plus the cost of a membership in the Wildlife Federation.

The funds raised from these competitions go back into upgrading or buying equipment for the archery lessons, and helps defray the costs of the indoor range.