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On September 16th, 2017, Parks Canada hosted the International Coastal Cleanup Day along the shores of Mountain Bay, east of Nipigon. The Lakehead University Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism program joined the cause, prepared for a long day’s work and experiential learning.
Chuck Hutterli, a Mountain Bay area resident, has been a long-time ambassador for coastal conservation. He has been extracting nurdles, small plastic pellets, from local beaches for almost ten years. On January 21st, 2008, a CP train derailed west of Rossport resulting in three rail cars spilling their load of plastic nurdles. Due to the tremendously cold and snowy weather conditions at the time, CP was unable to completely clean up the spilled pellets. With wind, rain and snow melt, the nurdles made their way into Lake Superior. The result was the dispersal of nurdles throughout the area, where they still wash up on the shore. Hutterli hosted the event at his home where we all 37 students gathered to learn and understand the true impact these tiny plastic beads have on the environment. They learned how nurdles are meticulously removed from the sand and were given the choice to either remain in one location collecting nurdles or to be dropped off further away to clean the shoreline of debris.
After a delicious lunch, students set out with one goal in mind; to make the area cleaner than when they arrived. Some of the larger items found included a number of unusual objects, some of which are toxic to the environment. From cigarette packs, inhalers, to rusted empty oil drums, more than a dozen bags were filled to the brim. Five kilometres of beach were combed, accumulating fifty pounds of trash and nearly 200 000 nurldes.
The overall experience was extremely eye-opening. At the end of the day, students better understood the impact humanity has on our waters. Our oceans, lakes, and rivers are all fragile biotic zones which need our attention. In some areas in the world, fifty pounds of debris on a shoreline certainly does not stretch for five kilometres. The level of waste washed up on shore must be reduced significantly to see a positive change in our Earth’s waters.
The Outdoor Recreation team can’t wait for next year! Thank you, Parks Canada and Chuck Hutterli, for setting up an excellent initiative.
During their fourth year in the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, Maarit Robitaille (nee McCallum) and Stephanie Cross worked on a class project that had been developed in partnership with the North of Superior Tourism Association (NOSTA). The purpose of their project was to evaluate the effectiveness of NOSTA’s brand by conducting surveys with members of the association and visitors to the region. They made several recommendations for the organization, and presented their report to NOSTA in 2007. The report was not acted upon until 2016 when Executive Director, Dan Bevilacqua found the report in a filing cabinet and implemented many of its recommendations to create a new brand and name for the organization, unveiled at the organization’s 40th Annual General Meeting, November 2016 (see their new website here https://superiorcountry.ca/ ). Mr. Bevilacqua was grateful to have found the report, as “the work of Maarit and Stephanie was instrumental towards the rebranding of NOSTA. It was their research that determined the future logo and image of the organization. We will forever be thankful for their work as NOSTA moved forward as Superior Country!” For their part, the ORPT grads were thrilled that even after all these years, their work had been helpful to the organization, “it is empowering to know that our work is being utilized to create positive changes for NOSTAs future”. These types of learning partnerships, where students get to work on real projects and community organizations are able to pursue projects through student participation, are absolute win-win opportunities for both parties.
On November 22 an enthusiastic group of 4th year Lakehead students from the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism facilitated an experiential "Planting Ideas" program with youth at the Underground Gym in Thunder Bay’s West Fort area. The program grew from a class project simply titled, “Do Something.” The goal as outlined by Dr. Ryan Howard (Assistant Professor In the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism) was for the students to attempt to engage collectively in the challenge of positively changing the world.
The 23 Lakehead students set their sights on creating and delivering youth programming to empower our future citizens regarding issues of food security, healthy living, community engagement and creativity. Peter and the youth at the Underground Gym were more than willing to host the Lakehead students. As part of the program, LU students facilitated a number of group bonding activities that helped build a strong group atmosphere meaningfully connecting the youth with the Lakehead students. Through their intentional programming, the LU students did an excellent job at breaking down some of the barriers of youth buy-in and shyness. The LU students created a learning environment in which the youth were not bound by a static structure, Cayden (LU Student) remarked "it was unlike what many of us were used to working in traditionally, and it really opened our eyes to the importance of teaching and learning from a place of care and mutual respect."
The youth were extremely receptive, had an amazing time, learned about planting food, and each went home with a decorated and potted herb they each planted to watch grow and use in their future cooking. LU students remarked that they were happy to have had the opportunity to engage with this program, it forced them to imagine a better world, and do something to start realizing that dream. Taking even small steps towards changing the world for the better is vitally important, we saw that on the faces of every youth who participated in the program.
Josh Vissers is completing an exchange at Dalarna University in Sweden and was interviewed about his experience.