In 2014, Lakehead University made a commitment to incorporate Indigenous Content Requirement (ICR) in all undergraduate degree programs. With several courses integrating ICR throughout the curriculum, the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism (ORPT) remains one of the leading proponent of this initiative. With a welcome ceremony for first year students and visits to the Fort William First Nation, the school has also integrated ICR into field-based experiences. One of the most recent initiatives, was the development of a code of conduct for Anemki Wajiw (Mount McKay). Produced with the Keepers of Anemki Wajiw and by students in OUTD 3715 (Aboriginal Tourism), the goal of this project was to developed a code of conduct that ORPT students, faculty and staff can abide by, when traveling on the traditional territory of the Fort William First Nation.
For the past 10 years, faculty, staff and students at the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism at Lakehead University has been working with the Red Rock Indian Band (RRIB) on a multitude of projects examining tourism, parks and protected areas, climate change and resilience, and interpretation. In 2010, this research collaboration between the Red Rock Indian Band and two researchers at the school, Drs. Koster and Lemelin was recognized by the office of Aboriginal Initiatives through the Aboriginal Partnership Research Award. Involving the RRIB, ORPT, the Nor’Wester Voyageur Trail Club in Nipigon, Parks Canada and Ontario Parks, the latest project featured an assessment of trails in the Ruby Lake Provincial Park. Conducted by students in the OUTD 3380 Backpacking Expedition and supervised by the course instructor, staff from Parks Canada, and a member of the Nor’Wester Voyageur Trail Club, the latest project conducted on the traditional lands of the RRIB, featured an assessment of trails in the Ruby Lake Provincial Park. The project also featured a preliminary evaluation of the Henry Roy property, which was recently acquired by the RRIB. Adjacent to Ruby Lake Provincial Park and located on the shores of the Nipigon River, this property provides future tourism product development strategies that could be developed at this site. The students are currently drafting a final report which will be presented to the project partners.
These types of initiatives provide students with hands on training, while also providing First Nations, communities and regional groups with information that would otherwise require substantial investments. It also highlights a research partnership between the Red Rock Indian Band and ORPT that began over a decade ago.
In late summer of 2010, Thunder Bay Field Naturalists worked with six students (Jennifer Craven, Mercedes Hall,AnthonyMattiacci, Heather McGinty, Daniel Tziatis, and Pryana Perreaux) in the Sea Kayaking 3370 course. Rodney Swatton, Willow Curthoys, Kristina Price, and Darryl Makin were the trip leaders. Willow Curthoys assisted the students with the natural area inventory and assessment in planning a research project linked to their sea kayaking field trip (August 25 to September 9, 2010). The route of the trip visited a number of offshore wilderness island sites in the National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA). At that time the Naturalists provided a list of 10 islands they wanted more information on and asked for photos, plant lists, bird lists, other natural history observations, and information about possible inappropriate uses/damage. Of the ten sites suggested, the group visited four and provided a detailed record on three – two locations on Spar Island and one on Middlebrun Island. The students submitted a full report to the Naturalists and also created a “tourism” brochure suitable for use by the public for both of these locations. Thunder Bay Field Naturalists are pleased to announce that in 2017 they purchased the two Spar Island sites researched and inventoried by the Outdoor Recreation Parks and Tourism students at Lakehead University. The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists are also purchasing five other locations in the NMCA.
Several of the islands involved in this purchase are part of the Trans Canada Trail – Lake Superior Water Trail. By protecting these sites as natural areas, rather than having them developed as cottage lots, Thunder Bay Field Naturalists feel that the sense of wilderness and the natural scenery along the route will be preserved for all to enjoy. The reserve locations are open to the public for low impact use and visitors are welcome to come ashore to hike, appreciate nature, take photos or enjoy an afternoon picnic.
In winter 2017, students from Dr. Harvey Lemelin's Outdoor Recreation Research Design course partnered with Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS) and Parks Canada to research and then provide suggested designs for interpretive signage panels. One group of five students, Rachel DalBello, Stephanie Potter, Julia Bingham Jesse Stewart, and Marty Wood, conducted research and designed a panel for the Porphyry Island Lighthouse, which is part of Lake Superior's National Marine Conservation Area.
During this project, the students worked with Parks Canada and Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior to identify 7 panels with topic and theme statements. Students then conducted research for 3 of the interpretive panels and designed the panels. Students provided research and panel designs to Parks Canada.
Parks Canada has thanked the students who workedhard on this project, and confirmed that the Porphyry Island Lighthouse Panels are complete and were installed in August 2017. As noted by Parks Canada staff and recent graduate of ORPT Sarah Shruiff, "The research and work that the students did was very valuable and helped to create the panels that were installed today. As much of the original panels were included as possible, however due to branding standards, and additional research, some changes were made."
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.