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An article from "CROSSROADS" this week.....

September 16, 2011

New Canadians experience camping for the first time

Twenty-one people camp out at Lake Audy

Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) partnered with Scouts Canada, Westman Wilderness Club and the Parkland Regional Settlement Office to provide an amazing experience for a unique group of first time campers. Twenty-one new Canadians ranging in age from three to 50 and originating from such places as Hungary, China, Poland, United Kingdom, Kyrzygstan and Egypt spent a beautiful weekend on the shore of Lake Audy learning the basics of camping.

Admittedly nervous at first, the new campers were soon learning the "how to camp" basics from experienced campers and the initial anxiety quickly changed to excitement and a yearning to learn more. Young and old fell in love with the beautiful location at Lake Audy and were so appreciative for the opportunity to learn so many things about camping and other outdoor experiences.

Throughout the day members of Scouts Canada, the Westman Wilderness Club and Parks Canada provided instructions on campsite set up, such as choosing an appropriate set up site, how to set up a tent, and making a fire. In addition information was provided on how to maintain a clean campsite, a discussion about the park's Bear Aware program and the importance of a leave no trace mentality.

The weekend was more than just an opportunity to learn some camping basics and once camp was set up they were off to experience a number of activities designed to enhance their appreciation and understanding of this beautiful place. During their two days at the park the new visitors had the opportunity to hike to Minnedosa Creek, attend a Songs of Riding Mountain Campfire Program, experience a bison interpretive program and participate in a discussion about First Nations culture.

Of course the camping experience must always include a campfire cookout. Although camping may have been a new experience for the new Canadian visitors the art of hosting a potluck was not. The abundance of amazing aromas was overwhelming given the number of different cultures represented and a wide array of delicious ethnic dishes and many laughs were shared as new acquaintances became friends. A campfire cookout is not complete without the most famous of campfire deserts, Smores! All veteran campers know there is not a better way to conclude an educational camping experience than teaching the fine art of Smore making and the new campers delighted in the opportunity to perfect their Smore making form.

This year's event was inspired by Parks Canada's National Learn to Camp Program and builds on last year's event organized by RMNP's First Nations Program Manager, Mark Young, where new Canadians from Brandon camped at Lake Audy.

"The participants all enjoyed being part of the program, and appreciated the opportunity to learn how to camp from individuals who have experience. They would love to come back," according to Elise Lavallee, Centennial Outreach Events Planner. They may get their wish as Lavallee indicated there is a good chance they will be offering the program again next year. "We are looking forward to next summer and wish to repeat this event at least twice. We want to continue to engage New Canadians in the province to explore this wonderful park in their back yard."

The program would not have been the success it was without partners. It was through the tireless planning and recruiting of the Parkland Regional Settlement Office and the enthusiasm and knowledge of Scouts Canada and Westman Wilderness Club members that the new Canadians were able to enjoy the beauty and wonder of Riding Mountain National Park. Through partnerships like these Parks Canada is committed to fostering an appreciation of the nature, history, and culture found in its national parks that belong to all Canadians.