At Ontario Parks we believe that nature is for everyone.
In honor of Healthy Parks Healthy People, we wanted to create opportunities for new audiences to experience Ontario’s incredible natural spaces.
That’s why we’ve partnered with Parkbus to offer two NatureLink programs on this year’s free day (July 20, 2018). Here’s the story of how two groups of new Canadians were able to experience Ontario’s parks for the first time.
Make a natural link
NatureLink is a Parkbus program that aims to connect newcomers to Canada with the outdoors.
They do this by offering subsidized transportation to outdoor spaces and outdoor programming. The program partners with settlement agencies to take groups to parks to spend a day in nature.
NatureLink recognizes the many systemic barriers that can make it difficult for newcomers to access the outdoors. The program provides a space for newcomers to explore new or familiar spaces, learn and develop skills to build confidence in the outdoors, and connect with others in a fun environment.
On the shores of Darlington
Our first NatureLink group headed to Darlington Provincial Park, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Darlington is just 45 minutes from Toronto and offers great hiking, swimming, and programming for those new to the parks.
The park offers great programs like Learn to Camp and Learn to Fish.
Darlington’s new visitors started the day with an exploration of the park’s nature center called the Log Cabin. They learned about snapping turtles and painted turtles, and felt the skins of different species.
They also learned about the natural and cultural history of the area around Darlington from a park naturalist.
The group then moved out onto the water to enjoy Darlington’s beautiful sandy beach. The beach offers stunning views of Lake Ontario, and the group couldn’t believe how much they seemed to be in the ocean!
Some dipped their toes in the water and others dove right in. Program participants were happy to spend the day relaxing on the beach, hiking trails, and simply soaking in the outdoors.
It was inspiring for staff to witness new Canadians experiencing the beauty of Ontario’s provincial park system for the first time.
Thanks for visiting Darlington, we hope to see you soon!
Family time at Bronte Creek
The second group of new Canadians headed to Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville.
Bronte Creek had many activities planned for Healthy People Day in Healthy Parks, and many came to enjoy the programs including guided meditation, cricket, discovery programs and pool canoe lessons.
After settling into the wide expanse of field and forest at Bronte Creek, some Parkbus visitors picnicked under a pavilion, while others played football on a nearby field. This group included many children, who took advantage of the bubbles and other games organized by the Bronte Creek rangers.
Those familiar with Bronte Creek Pool will know that it is very large (1.8 acres) and cools off many park visitors in the hot summer months. Our new Canadian visitors (especially the kids) were excited to explore the pool, and it wasn’t long before some decided to try canoe lessons.
It’s safe to say that this was the first time in a canoe for most of our Parkbus guests; And what an adventure it was!
When our first group of enthusiastic paddlers started, they headed straight for the buoyed barrier (which was meant to keep swimmers out of the canoe area). Without the ability to paddle to turn, they flew directly towards the swimming area of the pool!
With the help of lifeguards and swimmers, the new paddlers returned with the canoe to the separated area, all laughing.
For the rest of the day, an additional lifeguard was stationed at the barrier with buoys to keep the canoes and swimmers separated.
Once back on the Parkbus, all of our visitors seemed happy and tired after spending most of the day at the pool.
We were very happy to have met everyone who came and to have helped make their first foray outdoors in Canada a good experience, with lots of laughs.