By Erin Hansen

Fall hiking in the Don Valley
© Erin Hansen

Through my summer work experience with Parks Canada, I was exposed to many new parts of Northern Ontario. This really motivated me to start a Campus Club at Ryerson University. Campus Clubs are part of a program launched by Parks Canada to get young adults excited about connecting with nature and learning about history.

Canada has so much to offer, and that can be easy to forget no matter where you live. I wanted to help others discover as much as possible about the place they live. In the downtown core of Toronto, it’s especially easy to forget the value of connecting to nature. Even in the middle of Toronto, though, there are incredible natural sites to be seen. I became a Campus Club leader so I could help students discover Toronto and surrounding areas the way I had been able to discover Northern Ontario over the summer. And, as an additional bonus, I get the opportunity to discover Toronto at the same time.

I was especially fortunate because there was another Parks Canada summer student that was eager to share and discover Southern Ontario. Parks Canada paired myself and Rachel Boere together to create the campus club at Ryerson. Rachel studies Creative Industries while I am in Business Management, which gave us a great foundation for organizing and promoting our club. However, it wasn’t hard to get students interested in an opportunity to get away from city life.

Students were eager to hear about the nearby and convenient places in downtown Toronto that anyone can go to enjoy the outdoors. We recruit by word of mouth and through social media promotion. We have a Facebook page that keeps our members up-to-date on events we are holding. To date, we have organized two major events.

The first was a hike on the Don Valley Trails, and it was incredibly successful. The hike was about 7 kilometres, and occurred in October. Even though we were in downtown Toronto, the trees on the trails isolated us from the city, which made for a very beautiful hike. Our next event occurred on March 20. We took a two-night camping trip to the Pinery Provincial Park with 14 students. We stayed in Yurts, which was a new experience for most of us. We had a great time hiking the trails and enjoying the stars (a luxury we do not have in Toronto).

We’ve had a really successful winter, and Rachel and I are both looking forward to the future of the club. Personally, my plans for the summer are undetermined, but I’ll likely be staying in Toronto in order to continue studying and prepare for the upcoming school year.

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Sunset fun at Pinery Provincial Park
© Quin West