Healthy Living in the North

Imagining accessible recreation in Chetwynd

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Recreational equipment

With the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets the Imagine Chetwynd project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not have been available to people otherwise.

Last spring, the Chetwynd Visitor Centre set a goal to create more opportunities for people to experience fun activities in their area, with a focus on improving the health and wellness of residents and visitors. From this goal – and some seed funding support from IMAGINE Community Grants – Imagine Chetwynd was born!

Through the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets – as well as strong partnerships developed with the Chetwynd Public Library and the Tansi Friendship Centre – the project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not be available to people otherwise. The library helped promote the project and ran a Facebook Page where people could share stories and photos after using the equipment. The friendship centre supported the distribution and storage of some of the equipment, which improved access for youth, seniors, and families.

The positive outcomes as a result of the project were the community partnerships. The combined effort to create or enhance activities within the community was a positive experience. Partnering with groups who have the ability and skills to promote and deliver helped create success in the project. Community members welcomed, and were pleased with, the opportunity for friends or out of town family members to join them in trail hikes, bike rides, and fishing lakes and local rivers in the area; the local sporting goods store owner supplied the tackle for fishing. -Tyria Plamondon, Chetwynd Visitor Centre

IMAGINE Community Grant funds supported the purchase of bikes, helmets, fishing gear, and a variety of sporting equipment to get the program started.

The Imagine Chetwynd project will continue to be a sustainable program as the equipment and supplies acquired through the IMAGINE grant funding have longevity and equipment maintenance or replacement costs have been budgeted for the future.

One of our most eye-catching investments was a vibrant, candy apple red tandem bike. This beautiful, strikingly unusual bike was an eye opener and head turner when it was out in the community. It caught the attention of young and old alike… The bike provided our community with a little treasure that sets us apart from other northern communities. -Tyria Plamondon

Two men on tandem bike.

One of Imagine Chetwynd’s most eye-catching recreational investments: a bright red tandem bicycle!

It has to be mentioned that the project is not just a summer project. Included in the purchase of sporting and recreational equipment (rackets, balls, horseshoes, etc.), funds received also supported the purchase of snowshoes and an ice auger for ice fishing, so residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors all year long!

The Imagine Chetwynd project has opened opportunities for exposure to all of our parks, activities, courts, lakes, streams, and attractions through the use of free equipment and ease of access provided with the project. -Tyria Plamondon

This project is a great example of what some local initiative and thinking outside of the box can do to create fun, accessible, and health-promoting opportunities for people in the north!

For more information on the Imagine Chetwynd program and to see some cool photos of this project in action, check out the Chetwynd Visitors Centre on Facebook.


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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A passion for the paddle: Table tennis in Hudson’s Hope

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.

This story was originally published in Healthier You magazine.


Group of people playing table tennis.

With the support of an IMAGINE grant, table tennis is a new, accessible community recreation opportunity in Hudson’s Hope.

Tyler Schwartz is the president of the Hudson’s Hope Table Tennis Group, although Tyler himself will be the first to admit that it’s a grand title for a relatively informal group of table tennis enthusiasts. What makes this group unique is how they worked together to formalize their group through an IMAGINE grant and a partnership with a local school; this process allowed them to include the whole community in their game play.

I recently had the chance to chat with Tyler about his group and how they came together. In his introduction to me, he started off by stating, “We’re just a group of folks in town who have a passion for table tennis.” And that’s all they need to be to make a difference!

What was your experience like in applying for an IMAGINE grant?

It was pretty straightforward – we just happened to have the need right around the same time as the grant window was open. This really was a joint application between our table tennis group and the Hudson’s Hope Elementary-Secondary School. That’s where all of our table tennis tables are.

Why table tennis?

There’s a good-sized group of people in town who play table tennis, but it’s hard for us all to play together. We thought it would be fantastic if there were a central place in town where we could have a handful of tables that would be available for us to play and also be available for community use (and school use, as it turned out).

We wanted to get out of just playing at one person’s house where 2-4 people, maximum, could play at any one time. We really wanted to bring the group together to have 10, 12, 15, or even 20 people all playing at the same time!

What has the response been like?

After receiving the grant, we had received all of the equipment late in the spring and were up and running shortly after that, but because the school closes in the summer months, we were unable to play in July and August. Right now, we are just kicking off the fall season. We participated in the community fall sign-up and had a few new folks in town who wanted to join – so we’ll be starting up with even more people than last season!

Why do you love table tennis?

It’s a sport that I started playing when I was a kid growing up, and I seemed to have a knack for it. It’s fun – and lot more athletic than you think it might be!

You mentioned that new people have signed up to join the group this fall – who seems to be interested?

The high school students have access to the tables as a part of their lunchtime activities, during gym class, or outside of school hours. The other group is mostly adults from the community. Children under 16 are welcome as long as they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian during the evening time slots. There is a wide diversity of adults who play – it spans those from their early 20s up to those who are about 70 years old, and from all walks of life.

Students playing table tennis

A group of table tennis enthusiasts have used an IMAGINE grant to open their game play to all!

Have you had anyone come out yet who’s a first-time player?

One older gentleman who comes out said that he hadn’t played since he was in the army, more than 30 years ago. He’s come out and joined out group. I’ve lived in the community for 15 years and had never met him before – now I know his name, where he lives, and we now play a bit of ping-pong together!

One of the neat things about Hudson’s Hope is that every night of the week there’s at least one sport going on. They alternate because, unlike bigger cities, there’s not a lot of infrastructure to host activities. We’re adding a table tennis night to those selections. There’s a good mix of sports available to our community and we’re glad to be able to add table tennis to this offering.

Any final words you’d like to share about this grant?

I appreciated that we didn’t need to be registered as a non-profit. It made it easier for us to apply to get just a little bit of money to buy these tables. We don’t have directors and society rules and AGMs – we’re an informal group and yet we still perform a level of due diligence on the financial side. We partnered with the school, and that lent credence to our project and application.

I’d like to send a shout-out of encouragement to passionate individuals or organizations that have ideas, or are taking on initiatives that help support healthy activities, to apply. I would encourage them to apply.

One final question… is it okay to say ‘ping-pong’?

Of course! I think the proper name is in fact table tennis – but we call it pong all the time. I don’t sense folks around here are that pretentious!


What made this project stand out to the grant reviewers? For integrated community granting lead Mandy Levesque, three elements jumped out:

  • This represented a new recreational opportunity for the community.
  • There was a strong partnership with the local school, including a great letter of support from the principal.
  • The project was accessible – designed as a drop-in activity offered at no charge to any community members interested in participating.
Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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So Long Summer (But it’s not all that bad!)

Creek

The view along Kleanza Creek hiking trail near Terrace, B.C.

I have to admit. I’m a fall kind of guy. Sure, the dog days of summer are good, but growing up in Revelstoke, BC, I always looked forward to the mountains getting a fresh dusting of snow and the Kokanee spawning in the local creeks. Some of my fondest memories are hiking through the woods on a crisp fall morning with a couple friends.

I’m sure that many people living in northern British Columbia share a similar memory.

Now, I know this can be a busy time of year, school has started and there’s still a few projects around the house to finish up before winter gets here. However, why not spare some time to explore your local waking and hiking trails. The days are cooler and hints of color are starting to show in the trees. Salmon are spawning and there’s still abundant wildlife to be seen. Northern British Columbia has a lot of diversity and the outdoors can be spectacular this time of year.

Hiking may be a popular summertime activity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be enjoyed through the fall and into the early winter. Eventually hiking can become snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but that’s another blog post.

However, there are some things to consider before heading out on your favorite trail.

  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Northern BC is bear country. Be bear aware, especially if you’re in an area where salmon are spawning.
  • Remember that the days are getting shorter this time of year. Make sure you take that into account when planning your hikes so you can be off the trail before it gets dark
  • Be prepared. While the days might still be warm and pleasant, nights are getting cooler. Pack some warm clothing, an emergency blanket, flashlight, signalling device and fire starter with you.
  • Hunting season is underway, be aware that hunters may be sharing the outdoors with you.
  • Take your camera or smartphone; this time of year can be great for photos.

One of my fondest memories from growing up in Revelstoke was watching the snowline on the mountains get lower and lower as fall waned and winter approached. When it was about halfway half way down the mountains, a few friends and I would go hiking and meet the snow. It became a fall ritual.

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This is an old picture from waaay back on one of those trips to reach the snow!!! Taken at Mt. Revelstoke National Park.

To be honest I still watch the snow creeping down the mountains here in Terrace. I still laugh at an old memory of a snowball fight that pitted my friends Richard and Ken against me and another friend on one of those hikes. What sticks out most from that day was Richard nailing Ken at point blank range with a snowball that was actually meant for Jim or I. But I guess you had to be there!

Go ahead, get out there and embrace fall in northern British Columbia. You just might create some wonderful new memories with your friends and family.

Northern Health is sponsoring a great way to get to know (or share!) your community’s healthy features – The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! Answering clues gets you out in your community and a chance to win great prizes.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Get Your Game On!

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In the jersey is my youngest son, who loves soccer

You know what; I’m pretty excited for the last two weeks of September.  Not only is Northern Health’s Great Northern Scavenger Hunt taking place, but the world cup of hockey  is taking place.  While I won’t be watching every game, I’m looking forward to cheering on team Canada.  If team Canada is knocked out, then I’ll cheer for team Finland, as I have family over there.

Now, you might be wondering why I brought up watching the world cup of hockey when Northern Health is encouraging people to step away from the screen.  To be honest it’s about limiting screen time, not eliminating it all together.

Organized sports like hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball and basketball not only promote physical activity, but also sportsmanship, teamwork and often community involvement.   The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt is about plugging into your community and I’d like to point out that team sports are a great way to plug into your community.   Take some time to find out what leagues and clubs are in your community.

However, competitive or organized team sports may not be for everyone.  Team sports can be expensive, although there is help available for families.  The commitment in terms of time can be high and sometimes travel is required.  Not everyone enjoys the competition of team sports, and some may feel that their skill level isn’t good enough to join.

Organized competitive team sports just aren’t what some people want to do.  However, there are other ways to get involved in sports and “plug in.”

  • If team sports aren’t your thing, then what about sports that are individual in nature. Sports such as martial arts, speed or figure skating, tennis, badminton, cycling or skiing can provide challenge without being part of a team.
  • If the competitive nature of some sports leagues doesn’t appeal to you, consider joining a recreational league. Check out your community leisure services schedule and see what’s there.  You never know what might peak your interest.  Or get a bunch of friends together and have an informal game; chances are you’ll have fun and a few laughs at the end of it.
  • If you want to take part in a sport, but aren’t confident in your skill level, then look for a beginner league. I didn’t start playing ice hockey until later in life and I started out in an adult beginner’s league. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I ever had.  Never think you’re too old to start playing a sport either.  However, if you haven’t been active for a while, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first and remember to start out slowly.
  • If your kids are involved in sports, remember that it should be about having fun, making friends and learning about teamwork. While skill development is important, placing too much pressure on kids can result in the game becoming less enjoyable or even requests to quit the team.
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In the Gi is my oldest son, who takes part in jujitsu

The great thing about sports is that everyone can take part in some way or another.  It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are, or what your skill level is, you can find a way to participate.   Getting children involved in sport is a great way to build healthy lifestyles.

Now let’s cheer on team Canada.  Better yet, let’s put on our team Canada jerseys and play some road hockey.  Just remember to get off the road when someone yells “CAR!!”

Consider answering some of the sports-related questions (along with many others!) in the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! This contest gets you out and thinking about your community’s healthy activities and options – and there are great prizes to be won. Contest Closes October 02.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Get to know your community… Go for a Run!

20160920-holly-christian-runningMoving across the country can be a scary proposition, especially when all you know about your destination is what you’ve seen on TV. So when we found out we’d be moving to northern BC seven years ago, the first thing I did was go buy a map. Two moves and a lot of long road trips later, I’m happy to report that although it’s nothing like Vancouver, each dot on the map of our vast northern landscape has its own sense of community, unique personality, and way of life. One of the best ways I’ve found to plug into my surroundings has been to lace up and explore the trails, sign up for local races and events, and get outside!

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“Nature’s Staircase” – AKA Chetwynd Community Trail

Running (or walking) your local trails and roads gives you a great opportunity to meet people, see the town up close, and get to know the terrain. Whether it’s running up a mountain face, rock hopping across a river, or tackling nature’s stairs through the forest (see photo), literally every type of landscape can be found somewhere in northern BC.

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Holly and her friends after her first triathlon in Mackenzie

No matter how small the community, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that across the north there are groups and clubs for those interested being more active. Whether it’s running, triathlon, cycling, skiing, all are welcoming to the newbies and happy to offer tips to the inexperienced. I tried my first triathlon in Mackenzie, teamed up with friends and coworkers for the chilly Iceman in Prince George, ran my first half marathon up a mountain in Tumbler Ridge, and trained for my first marathon on the trails and country roads of the North Peace. Along the way I’ve made new friends, supported other reluctant runners to give it a shot, and continue to challenge myself to try new routes.

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Holly Christian and Melissa Aalhus tackle the Earth Hour 5K in Fort St. John

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Beatton Park snowshoe trails – Fort St. John

One thing to remember about exploring northern BC, is that you need to be prepared for anything. Weather can make or break a run, but if you prep in advance and wear the right gear, rain and snow can create an entirely new (dare I say pleasant) experience. After my phone battery froze on one cold winter (-25 degree) run, I entertained myself by listening to the crunching snow instead of music. Wildlife will also keep you on your toes. I have come face to face with a couple bears on my excursions around Mackenzie’s trails, and met a bull moose, fox and a couple of deer on some recent runs in Fort St. John. And nothing makes you run faster than finding a pile of fresh cougar scat on a trail, that’s for sure!

Whether running is your thing, or you’re just trying to get to know your community a bit better, I highly recommend checking out the local events in your area. If you aren’t feeling particularly athletic, there are also great opportunities to volunteer at events and races – and they’re always grateful for an extra set of hands!

I look forward to making many more runs across the north and exploring the northwest! My next adventure will be in the wilds of Hudson’s Hope for That Dam Run in September.

How can you plug into your community today? get inspired and maybe win a prize when you complete the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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Building spaces where everyone can play

Playground

Healthy community projects don’t happen overnight. Quesnel’s first accessible playground – with a grand opening scheduled for September 15, 2016 – provides a blueprint for success.

Brooke and MacKenzie are twin sisters who cannot play together at Quesnel’s playgrounds. While MacKenzie scampers up and down stairs and slides, Brooke’s chase stops the moment her wheelchair gets stuck in the pea gravel. To help the girls play together, Brooke’s parents carry her around the playground.

Brooke and MacKenzie’s situation is hardly unique, and neither is the fact that Quesnel didn’t, until recently, have any accessible playgrounds. Chances are the playground closest to you has pea gravel, steps, ladders, and other features that make it difficult for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Because it’s not just Brooke and MacKenzie who can’t play together. It’s the family with the baby stroller that can’t roll through the gravel to watch their toddler go down the slide; it’s the grandparents with walkers who are left watching grandkids from afar when a ledge gets in the way; it’s the children with leg braces who can only look on as their friends race over traditionally uneven surfaces.

But this is all about to change in Quesnel and, as it turns out, the answer to the question, “how can Brooke and MacKenzie play together?” provides a valuable blueprint of how a healthy community project can take shape in your town.

Two people assembling playground equipment.

The Quesnel Accessible Playground was a project four years in the making for Sandy Meidlinger (right), who was involved in the project team that made it happen.

Fresh from the excitement of a long-awaited playground build event on May 28, 2016, I chatted with Sandy Meidlinger with the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre, who tells the story from here:

This project started in 2012 when Brooke and MacKenzie’s mom came to me and asked for help to get an accessible playground built in Quesnel. I’m a member of the Parent Child Resource Team (a group of service providers and parents) and we agreed this would be a valuable long-term project for us to take on. Having a team was crucial! Our committee included parents, health care professionals, local agencies, government and school district representatives, and others.

When we asked community members for letters of support for this project, the response was overwhelming! Why? Until now, there was no playground in Quesnel accessible to people with mobility needs. I’m talking baby strollers, walkers, leg braces, scooters, and more. In Quesnel alone, there are over 100 children who, because of complex developmental profiles, can’t participate in many play activities on typical playgrounds. These kids are cut off from a typical family activity of playing at the park. An accessible playground increases physical activity levels for everyone, promotes inclusive family enjoyment, and helps children with mobility issues develop independence.

Volunteers assembling playground

On the day of the build, 25 volunteers and professionals came together to assemble the park.

Our first step was to present to the City of Quesnel and Cariboo Regional District joint planning committee. Both groups agreed in principle to support the idea. Connecting with government early was key to getting support for things later in the process like ongoing playground inspection and maintenance. There’s a wonderful legacy component to this project, too, as the city has committed to incorporating accessible aspects into all future park updates.

With government support in place, we looked for a location. The Quesnel & District Arts & Recreation Centre had an old playground in disrepair so we asked about making this the site of the new playground. The Centre and their governing bodies were on board! This location was ideal because it’s central and on a bus route; the Centre will be using the playground daily for inclusive programs; and they offer accessible parking, doors, and washrooms.

Levelling rubber surface.

The recycled rubber surface replaced pea gravel, which is difficult to use for those with mobility needs.

The next step was to research playground developers. We settled on Habitat Systems. They took our ideas and created a design. We then asked therapists, play specialists, parents, and children about the plan; Habitat tweaked the design. The final proposal was about more than just mobility – there are sensory toys, considerations for visual impairments, and other equipment for integrated, inclusive play.

We then started the long and sometimes frustrating work of fundraising. We wrote lots of grant proposals; I presented to local agencies; we wrote letters to local businesses; and we all chatted with anyone interested in accessibility. Our generous community really stepped up! We managed to fundraise over $200,000!

We finally got to the day of the build. About 25 volunteers and professionals spent 13 hours assembling the park. The recycled rubber surface was poured the following week. The park is open for use this summer and our grand opening is scheduled for September 15!

It’s hard to believe that it took four years but MacKenzie and Brooke – and hundreds of other Quesnel residents – are now able to play together! We now have a space where everyone can play.


The Quesnel Accessible Playground is still fundraising for its last few pieces. To support this project with a tax-deductible donation, contact Sandy Meidlinger at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre: 250-992-2481, SandyM@QuesnelCDC.com

For project photos and a list of donors, visit the Quesnel Accessible Playground on Facebook.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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“Our solution was the boardwalk”: How a local hiking group provided everyone with the opportunity to enjoy a natural wonder

Man carrying plank

Volunteer Mitch Olineck carries a boardwalk plank.

One of the things that northern B.C. residents commonly appreciate about living in this area is our close proximity and easy access to nature and outdoor activities, like skiing, camping and hiking.

Unfortunately, this “easy access” doesn’t always extend to everyone and truly experiencing nature can be a difficult, even impossible, task for some. This is why the Prince George hiking club, the Caledonia Ramblers, undertook the ambitious project of building a universal boardwalk for the Ancient Forest, a popular trail system 113 km east of Prince George that features huge ancient cedar trees that are protected as part of B.C.’s rare inland rainforest.

“There has to be an equal playing field for all our citizens,” said Nowell Senior, Caledonia Ramblers President, “so all citizens have an opportunity to live a wholesome, inclusive life.”

Senior has been president of the hiking club for eight years and was a member for 10 years before that. He has seen the boardwalk, as well as the original Ancient Forest trail, come alive from initial idea through to extensive planning and final development.

Four hikers at trail entrance.

Hikers (from left to right) Nowell Senior, Gwen and Bjorn Norheim, and Don Austin at the entrance to the universal boardwalk.

The idea for the Ancient Forest nature loop trail was conjured up 10 years ago and was built in a six week period over the summer of 2006. The Ramblers knew the area was beautiful, with its unique stands of large, ancient cedar, but Senior and the hiking club never anticipated just how popular it would become.

“Each year, more and more people were coming out to the nature trail,” said Senior. “When we realized just how popular the Ancient Forest trail had become, we were aware of those in our community who could not have that experience, and our solution was the boardwalk.”

So, in 2010, the club began exploring the idea of the universal boardwalk and approached local and provincial sponsors. The response was “completely supportive and positive,” said Senior. The 450 metre boardwalk that would provide full access to the Ancient Forest would become a reality.

The project came to fruition thanks to the contributions of many generous sponsors and 200 volunteers. The volunteers helped to build and even carried a total of 60 tons of lumber (by hand!) from the parking lot to the furthest point of the eventual boardwalk (in order to have it safely tucked away after delivery).

Four seasons and 6,500 volunteer hours later, the universal boardwalk was completed in the fall of 2013. It is now a separate trail – fully wheelchair accessible with rest areas and benches along the way – that goes to a viewing platform above a stream and provides a lovely view of the cedars. In 2015, the Ancient Forest welcomed over 15,000 visitors, and the boardwalk was renamed the Nowell Senior Universal Boardwalk to recognize his amazing contribution and dedication to the project.

“I think that going out to nature, we get reacquainted with the natural part of our world,” said Senior, on the importance of being active outdoors. “We’re natural beings that depend on nature. We can sometimes become separated from it, and as a result we’re not living as wholesome a life as we could.”

Senior encourages others to look at their communities and find ways to improve their accessibility, whether it’s providing better access to a park or creating a better mobility trail. His advice to get started: “Form a group of like-minded people who feel the same way… Put the idea out to organizations and entities that could be helpful in promoting such a venture.”

Now, Senior says the Ramblers are going forward with more awareness of the need for inclusivity. “I would hope the enthusiasm with which the Caledonia Ramblers have approached providing full access to nature would be contagious and effect more groups to become involved in that work.”


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.

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In Prince Rupert, it’s not about creating a fancy new program, it’s about tearing down barriers

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Youth group with paddles.

Some youth participants in the Friendship House’s programs. When coordinators looked at their running, hiking, and swimming programs, they identified some barriers that were keeping youth away. With the help of an IMAGINE grant, those barriers have come down.

Northern Health’s recent community consultations and report on child health have centred around one question: What do children and youth need to be healthy in the north?

What has stood out for me following the consultations is how many of us agree that more physical activity and access to low-cost or free recreational opportunities for children and youth support health and an overall sense of wellness.

But what if access (or, rather, lack of access) to supplies, equipment, or basic needs like running shoes or swimwear prevents access to recreational opportunities for children and youth? What can a community do?

The Friendship House Association of Prince Rupert’s Basic Needs for Healthy Choices Project took on this challenge.

The goal of the project was to provide supplies and equipment to youth to encourage increased physical activity and more opportunities for the youth who took part in programming at the Friendship House. What I especially like about this project is how it looks at addressing a healthy living challenge (low physical activity rates) by looking upstream. It’s not about creating a fancy new program, it’s about tearing down the barriers that prevent people from accessing existing programs. I think that this is an important way to think about healthy communities!

Staff at the Friendship House looked for opportunities to remove barriers to participation in youth activities.

Staff at the Friendship House looked for opportunities to remove barriers to participation in youth activities.

Staff found that youth did not have the funds to purchase shoes or clothes for both organized and drop-in activities at the centre. Through funds provided by an IMAGINE grant, the Friendship House bought supplies to support youth to join in the hiking and running club as well as swimming outings. Funds also supported the purchase of a variety of equipment for gym and fitness opportunities for youth during the drop-in times and scheduled fitness sessions.

Through the efforts of this project, staff at the Friendship House has seen youth participation numbers increase significantly each month (more than double previous numbers) and have even had parents join in on some of the activities.

According to coordinator Vince Sampare:

The youth that benefited from this grant were so excited for the equipment and runners that we provided to them to take part in the activities we provide in the Youth Hub.

How can you reduce barriers to participation in your community?


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Just stop and play

Mother and child walking in forest

“Outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience, and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.”

With our busy lives and commitments to our children to be sure their everyday needs are met, we often forget to just stop and play with our children.

Today is a chance for us to look at the benefits of outdoor play. I want to encourage all caregivers to connect with their children outside, no matter what the weather forecast says! If it’s raining, put on your rubber boots and play in the rain and splash in the puddles. If the sun is poking through, slap on the sunscreen and go outside and play.

Encourage fun, self-directed, free-range play!

Today, children are often scheduled with structured activities such as hockey and soccer practices and piano lessons. Equally important to these scheduled opportunities is the free time for children to dream and explore their own limits. This outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.

Play – how much is the right amount?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 180 minutes (3 hours) of daily physical activity for children ages 3-4 at any level of intensity. The guidelines then change for children ages 5 and up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous play per day.

Unfortunately, only 14% of children are meeting these guidelines. This drops to only 5% who are meeting the guidelines for children aged 12-17.

How to play?

Reduce screen time. Unplug and play. Make playing and exploring our neighbourhoods the reward rather than more screen time. Let’s embrace the beauty of living in the north! Everything is so accessible and nature is all around us. And it’s free! This may mean letting the child take the lead. You may get a glimpse into what the world looks like through your child’s eyes: spending time bent over exploring the colour in the rocks or examining pussy willows that you revisit later as they become leaves throughout the spring.

The benefits of play are across the board

The most obvious is that it is fun, but play also helps release tension, develops imagination, and allows for problem-solving and mastering new concepts. Play builds self-esteem, leadership skills, and reduces anxiety. Playing socially builds on co-operation and sharing as well as increases our children’s ability to resolve conflict. Outdoor play helps with gross motor skills, which build strong hearts, muscles and bones. Being active everyday as a child helps develop a lifelong habit of daily exercise as an adult.

Finally, be a good role model. Live an active life and rediscover the fun and freedom of outside play. While encouraging the whole family to “wear the gear,” wear your helmet when biking or skateboarding together. Turn your cell off. Make play a priority. Set aside time every day for free play and a chance to connect and have fun with your child today.

Reflect back to your own childhood playtime. I want to encourage everyone to build those same quality experiences for our children today! Let’s get everyone outside and active, having fun while promoting safe, active outdoor play.

Sandra Sasaki

About Sandra Sasaki

Sandra is the Children’s First Manager. In this role, she supports local committees and groups in Prince George, Quesnel, the Robson Valley and Mackenzie to work together to assess, identify and plan for the unique needs of young children. Sandra has lived and worked most of her life in Prince George where she and her husband are active members of the community. She enjoys weightlifting and working out at the gym, painting, skiing, camping, and fishing. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family as she is the proud mother of three daughters and a grandmother of seven.

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Risky play and the freedom to roam

Take a moment and reflect back on your own childhood experiences.

  • What did you love to do?
  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • Why was this So. Much. Fun?!

If you look back on your own childhood memories of play, would any of that be considered unsafe today?

Boy beside a tree

Give kids the freedom to decide how high to climb! This spring, Denise’s key message for outdoor play is to value health & fun as much as we value safety.

To kick off the spring, I’m excited to talk about promoting active outdoor play with the message that we need to value health and fun as much as we value safety. The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth revealed that to contribute to the health and wellness of children today, it’s imperative to get our kids outside, to give them the freedom to roam, and to take risks in their play.

Risk is often seen as a bad word that makes many people nervous, but let’s explore that a bit. When we look at risk in play, we are talking about play that allows children to recognize and evaluate a challenge and then decide on a course of action according to their own abilities. This definition of risk in play allows for the thrill and excitement that we all cherish from our own childhood memories.

When are talking about risk in play, that doesn’t mean allowing children to court danger that could cause life-altering serious injury. Allowing for risky, active outdoor play is not about being negligent or reckless. It’s not about skating on a half-frozen lake, or sending a preschooler out to the park alone. We as adults and communities still have a responsibility to eliminate the hazards: those situations that a child cannot assess for themselves and offer no benefit to the play experience. It is about promoting “As safe as necessary, not as safe as possible” and encouraging the balance of valuing health and fun as much as we value safety.

This discussion often invokes a bit of panic in parents, caregivers and leaders who feel responsible for safety in their communities.

But again, what we are discussing here today is the balance between:

  • Eliminating and protecting our children from life-altering or life-threatening hazards while
  • Allowing for and, in fact, encouraging some of the risks that come with sending children outside to play.

Indeed, the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card found that the biggest risk to children’s long term health and development is actually keeping kids indoors!

And so, with spring melting snow and bringing new colours back to our yards, parks and neighborhoods, let’s give children the freedom to decide how high to climb that tree, to explore the woods, get dirty, play hide & seek, wander, balance, tumble, rough-house, and experience the outdoors. Because the evidence tells us that when children are outside they:

  • Move more,
  • Sit less, and
  • Play for longer

and these are all associated with improved physical health and fitness as well as mental health, social wellness and fun. Exactly what memories are made of!

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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