New Canadians learn to camp
Canadians love the great outdoors and hopefully so will those new to this country.
Last weekend, 50 new Canadian immigrants were able to experience camping – a Canadian pastime that is being passed on to recent immigrants through a program called Learn to Camp – in Banff National Park.
The day-and-a-half program at the Two Jack Main Campground, which Parks Canada has set up in partnership with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and Mountain Equipment Co-op, was made available to new Canadians living in the Calgary metropolitan area in an effort to not only share a unique experience, but encourage camping as a fun and exciting activity.
“What we’ve been looking at over the years are the trends in visitors and who’s coming to the national parks,” said Katherin Hogan, a visitor experience project development officer from Parks Canada. “One of the things in campgrounds is we’re seeing less and less people coming out.
“The national parks can be an intimidating experience for people to come. This program is designed to encourage them to come out, have fun and see what it’s all about.”
For new Canadians, and for those who’ve never experienced camping, let alone doing so in such an expansive space such as Banff National Park, the program is the perfect combination of education and leisure.
“When you’re doing something for the first time it’s intimidating, especially when you look at the amount of gear that’s involved,” she explained. “If you’ve never done it before it’s almost overwhelming. You want someone to teach you at the very beginning so that you know what you’re doing and can learn it properly so that you’re confident to go on your own.”
The program kicked off Saturday morning (July 14) with a group orientation to help all of the volunteers and participants get to know each other, then carried on for the rest of the day and camping overnight. Some of the activities included demonstrations of how to keep a safe and tidy campsite, instructions for assembling tents, a hike to Stewart Canyon and a fireside performance by musical group The Wardens.
This is the third year Learn to Camp has been in place and according to Judy Glowinski, a visitor experience member from Banff National Park, the program has garnered a positive response from participants.
“Once they do it they’re hooked. They all want to come back and do it again,” Glowinski explained. “It’s really important for new Canadians to experience their new country and have these opportunities within national parks and sites.
“You can talk about an experience, but until you actually do it and have an hands-on experience where you’re actually learning to put up a tent, build a fire or learning to hike… then you don’t really understand what it means to do something authentically Canadian.”
In addition to the outdoor program, Parks Canada has also launched a new Learn to Camp Smartphone App to help first-time campers enjoy Canada’s national parks and national marine conservation areas. The app provides info about camping basics such as what to pack, where to camp, recipes and tips from Parks Canada staff.
Aside from the new information available to campers in both digital and hands-on forms, Hogan stressed the most prevalent piece of advice for newcomers, be they inexperienced campers or not, is that the national parks in Canada are meant to be enjoyed.
“I think the essential thing is that camping in the national park is fun,” Hogan said. “It’s something we all enjoy doing and it’s not as intimidating as it seems. The national parks are something to come out and enjoy.”
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