Healthy Living in the North

IMAGINE Grant: Trail Blazers

Riding a bike is one of those experiences that most people associate with being a kid, but the truth is many kids don’t get the chance to have that experience. The cost of buying a bike is a major barrier for some families, and additional costs like helmets and maintenance can put the activity out of reach. Many students at Westwood Elementary School in Prince George are among those not fortunate enough to own a bike, and this motivated a teacher, Tanja Wilson, to apply for an IMAGINE Community Grant to start the Trail Blazers program at the school.

Westwood school kids on bikes.

“I saw the need for some of our youth to be able to enjoy bike riding, and I wanted to incorporate it into an after school program so that everyone could join,” says Wilson. “I wanted to help kids learn not only how to ride a bike, but also safety rules and basic bike fixes such as how to put a chain back on, and how to lower a seat.” 

With funding in place, Tanja first set out to purchase the equipment: 25 bikes, 25 helmets, and 25 sets of pads, in sizes to accommodate students of all ages. She then arranged lessons about bike safety and maintenance for the kids, including hand signals, crossing roads, and how to replace a broken chain. Once this was completed, it was ride time.

“It was FANTASTIC!! Not only did the students enjoy it, their parents did as well.”

The program ran twice a week for primary students and twice for intermediates. The route between Westwood Elementary and nearby Ginters Park quickly became a fan favourite. At the park, the kids explored trails and were able to enjoy a healthy snack before riding back to school!

The program was a hit, seeing huge growth in participation over time and giving many students the opportunity to engage in fun, healthy, and safe physical activity with their friends.

All kids should have the chance to play, but sometimes barriers they can’t control get in the way. By supporting projects like Trail Blazers, the IMAGINE Community Grants program helps break these barriers down, one ride at a time. The Spring 2019 IMAGINE intake opens to applications on March 1, 2019, with applications due March 31. For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants web page.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE granting & cultivating community: The Burns Lake Community Garden

The courtyard and fire pit at the Burns Lake Community Garden.
The courtyard within the Burns Lake Community Garden, where people can gather around the fire to relax, socialize, and learn.

Healthy communities are much like gardens – they don’t just happen. They need to be tended, cultivated, and nurtured to grow to their full potential. Community gardens take this metaphor and turn it into real-world success stories. One of these tales of triumph is the Burns Lake Community Garden.

Like many communities in Northern BC, Burns Lake faces challenges with access to fresh, healthy foods. The Burns Lake Community Garden Society (BLCGS) seeks to address these concerns, and in Spring 2018 they applied for funding through the IMAGINE Community Grants program. The project was approved, and they got to work building an “edible environment” for all community members to enjoy.

In addition to planting a dozen fruit trees and a dozen fruit bearing bushes to provide access to local produce, the BLCGS wanted to create an environment for people to come together and enjoy the literal fruits of their labour. They envisioned a courtyard, surrounded by garden, where people could gather around a fire to relax, socialize, and learn. And it’s safe to say, that vision was realized.

Completed in late summer, the upgraded community garden has already hosted a successful workshop on traditional First Nations use of medicinal plants. The workshop brought together a diverse group of 20 individuals who used plants grown in the garden to explore medicinal applications and receive traditional knowledge. Further workshops are already in the works, and the courtyard has seen frequent use as a social gathering place as well.

Access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be a barrier to healthy living for residents of our Northern communities, but groups like the Burns Lake Community Garden Society are working to change that. By growing their communities, they make them stronger, healthier, and more resilient. With a new greenhouse installed in 2018 as well, the BLCGS is excited about an extended growing season and the opportunity to provide local food to their community year-round. The IMAGINE Community Grants program is proud to support this and other projects that make our communities healthy! 

Have an idea that could make your community a healthier place? The Spring 2019 intake of the IMAGINE Community Grants program opens March 1, 2019. Visit the IMAGINE Grant page today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Clearing a path to the future: IMAGINE funding for Pidherny Recreation Site

There’s just something about the sound of tires rolling over dirt. It’s a hum, an almost sub-aural vibration, and at its best it moves through the rider’s body like a wave, washing away the mental cobwebs of a digital world and sweeping all consciousness into a singular, focused state.

man on mountain bike biking down a trailMaybe it’s this sensory gift that inspires mountain bikers to volunteer their time and energy to create and maintain the trails that provide it. But it was those volunteers themselves that inspired the Prince George Cycling Club to apply for IMAGINE Community Grant funding to purchase tools to support their efforts.

Pidherny Recreation Site is a popular trail network in Prince George that features a wide variety of trails catering to riders of all interests and abilities. The varied terrain of the rec site makes it an ideal location for trail development, and through careful planning and skillful execution, the site has evolved from a relatively small number of user-built trails into a vibrant, multi-use community recreation area. While mountain bikers are the primary user group on the trails, many local residents also enjoy walking there in the summer and snow-shoeing in the winter months. And with interest in the sport surging in the community, the future looks bright.

“We have seen tremendous growth in participation in mountain biking in Prince George over the past few seasons,” says Prince George Cycling Club Mountain Director Josh Staub. “As a non-profit organization, we rely on funding from grants like IMAGINE to provide safe and accessible trails for riders. The tools purchased with this grant will help ensure that the Pidherny Recreation Site remains safe and sustainable for years to come.”

Similar to a bike, community improvements like the Pidherny Rec Site keep on rolling. As interest in an activity grows, demand for infrastructure increases. As that infrastructure is developed, more people are attracted to the activity and the cycle is renewed by the increased demand for new options. Pidherny Rec Site is a perfect example of a community driven effort that not only contributes to the health and well-being of participants, but also draws them together. The IMAGINE Community Grant program is proud to support efforts like this throughout the Northern Health region, investing in the people and organizations who take action to make our communities healthier places for all!

For more information regarding IMAGINE Community Grants, and applying, visit the IMAGINE homepage , or email Imagine.Grants@northernhealth.ca with any questions.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Biking to save your life

Bike riding

Biking can save your life… in more ways than one. Pictured: Andrew on a course in Whistler, BC.

I never actually saw the bear, but I sure heard it.

It was the end of a good solid ride, and I was pretty tired. I had put in about 10 km on the gorgeous single track trails out at Otway, and my legs were feeling quite Jello-ish. It was early evening, warm, and the golden light of impending night permeated everything with a slow sense of peace and easy satisfaction. And so, lost in my thoughts and a pleasant haze of endorphins, I didn’t think much of the rustle in the trees to my right.

Once I was safely back in the van and coherent thought beyond survival returned, I realized that that small rustle was the cub, and the snarling, crashing chaos that ensued to my left thereafter was the mother I had offended. With the guttural grunting of a grisly death in my ear, however, only one thought was discernible: RIDE FASTER. I’m not sure I have ever pushed a gear that low that hard, before or since, but I am sure about this: my bike saved my life that idyllic summers’ eve.

And, now that I think of it, that was actually the second time that biking saved me. Although the first lacks the drama and explosive adrenaline rush, it is no less valid. Before I found mountain biking, I was committing most every health sin imaginable. Lack of exercise: check. Excessive consumption of alcohol: check. Poor diet: check. Smoking: check. In short I was overweight, out of shape, and on a crash course with a premature heart attack for sure.  Also, I had a daughter on the way.

Not a good look.

So I bought a used mountain bike on eBay for $200. It cost me almost that much again once she arrived to get her ride-able, but she convinced me at the top of my first big climb to change my lifestyle around.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I am now 30 pounds lighter, a non-smoker, and I exercise regularly and eat at least reasonably well. I also no longer feel like I’m going to puke and pass out once I ride uphill for a few minutes.

That bike, by the way, is named Polly. I now have two shiny engineering masterpieces, full of flashy hydraulic bits and nifty feats of geometric wizardry that have made my much quicker on trails, but Polly is still around. I will never get rid of the bike that saved my life (twice), and she now serves as my commuter bike.

This brings me, at last, to the point of this rambling little diatribe: Bike to Work Week. I have organized a team for my work colleagues, the Kilometer Crushers, because I believe everybody can benefit from throwing a leg over a bike. It doesn’t matter whether you ride roads, trails, or both, just riding is the point. So join a team, and get out there: you only live once, and you’ll live better on a bike!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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