Youth Wilderness Stewardship Program on Coulonge River

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On September 20-22, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Ottawa Valley chapter (CPAWS-OV) operated its Youth Wilderness Stewardship Program initiative on the Coulonge River. Davidson’s Esprit Rafting guided 10 youths age 18-30 on the Coulonge.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

On September 20-22, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Ottawa Valley chapter (CPAWS-OV) operated its Youth Wilderness Stewardship Program initiative on the Coulonge River. Davidson’s Esprit Rafting guided 10 youths age 18-30 on the Coulonge.
John McDonnell, Executive Director of CPAWS-OV explains, “The purpose of
this wilderness journey is to connect youth to their local natural areas, promote
youth-led environmental service initiatives and inspire them to create change in
their communities through conservation.”
I interviewed participant James Graves about his experience.
KF: James, please tell us about yourself.
JG: I’m a 28-year-old Filipino-Canadian born in Manila. I moved to Ottawa when I was 4, later studied at Carleton, and joined the Army Reserve for seven years. I work in IT Procurement for the federal government. I’m a history buff who loves martial arts, playing in amateur sports leagues and cats, — and am training for my first triathlon. I joined CPAWS as part of this Wilderness Stewardship Program and look forward to leading and supporting other initiatives.
KF: Are you a long time outdoors enthusiast?
JG: I’ve been a fan of paddling and kayaking for several years although my family wasn’t really into the outdoors. I joined Cadets when I was 14 and went on a two-day canoe trip where I discovered my love for paddling and the outdoors. My uncle and I have gone canoeing in Algonquin Park, and I’ve explored almost all Gatineau Park’s trails. When in the Army Infantry, I was exposed to varied outdoor conditions: sweaty summers, rainy springs and Arctic winter conditions. I once went to Moosonee near James Bay for a three-week winter exercise where temperatures approached -40C.
KF: Why did you attend CPAWS-OV’s Wilderness Stewardship Program?
JG: I wanted to connect with like-minded people who enjoy being outdoors. Additionally, I have never been part of an organization that promotes conservation efforts and felt that I needed to be more engaged. “Stewardship” in any context means being responsible. In the context of this Coulonge trip, being
a steward means we need to be responsible for the environment we live in and
ensure this message is given to others, to inspire and remind them of these responsibilities. Additionally, being a steward has a connotation to traditions and history that needs to be upheld. The Coulonge has a long, storied history and it’s important as stewards to keep these memories and stories alive.
KF: What’s particularly important about the Coulonge and protection of watersheds?
JG: The Coulonge River is important because it’s one of the last wild, intact watersheds in Southern Canada. Such watersheds are important to protect and monitor because they supply our drinking water, water for agriculture and manufacturing, offer recreational opportunities, and provide habitat for plants and animals.
KF: What did you learn on this Coulonge experience?
JG: I learned that when canoeing through rapids, I shouldn’t be standing up or holding the sides of the canoe! I learned how beautiful the Coulonge is, and appreciated its clean air, crisp water and lush pines. Seeing this first-hand gives a great perspective because it allowed me to understand the environment I want to promote to protect. This experience made it easier to communicate to others and gave me more of an emotional attachment to the area.
KF: How will you be a Wilderness Stewardship Ambassador?
JG: I plan on either leading or supporting events in my community to promote conservation or at least start conversations about its importance. Although my “community” is downtown Ottawa, it’s also my family, friends and co-workers.
CPAWS-OV Fundraiser: Want to support CPAWS-Ottawa Valley’s 50 years as a wilderness protector? Attend their 50th anniversary fundraiser, November 14, Wabano Centre on Montreal Road in Vanier.
See page 25 for more on this CPAWS-OV initiative.