Strathcona Park Lodge
There is no greater environmental legacy than educating the next generation about stewardship. In that regard Strathcona Park Lodge reigns supreme. Since 1958, the resort and outdoor education centre has been teaching students of all ages and adventure thirsty families about the importance of preserving wilderness areas, leaving no trace and, of course, inspiring them to want to continue to enjoy wild places.
“Training kids to love and respect the outdoors is our biggest long term effect,” says Christine Clarke, Strathcona Park Lodge’s (SPL) co-director.
In the almost 50 years since Jim and Myrna Boulding founded the lodge on the outskirts of Strathcona Provincial Park, B.C.’s oldest provincial park, five to seven thousand people per year have passed through its programs taking home a new found value for wilderness.
“Outdoor Education at Strathcona retains the magic of nature,” wrote Jim in a 1970’s staff manual. “The forest is never reduced to systems, specimens and sawbucks. In addition to teaching skills, we are concerned with the less visible realms of education. Perceptions are changed, confidence is built, bodies are strengthened and a basic sense of integration with nature is experienced.”
Over the years Jim and Myrna led by example, always ready to fight for the wilderness of Strathcona Provincial Park. Jim was a ready scrapper, even in the face of regular defeat. Dying of cancer in 1986, he posthumously received the United Nation’s Heaslip Award for environmental stewardship. Myrna laughs and indicates it is ironic that Jim would be the recipient of this particular environmental award, because he lost every environmental battle he ever launched. But everyone around him noticed his efforts, and many took notes!
After Jim’s death Myrna continued the lopsided battle, fighting to reduce pollution from local mines, advocating cleaning up forestry and aquaculture practices, and standing up for preservation of wilderness areas. Strathcona Park Lodge’s activism has won numerous environmental awards, including the BC Tourism 2003 Award for Environmentally Responsible Tourism.
The following year, motivated by what they had seen and heard of Myrna and Jim’s legendary efforts, two talented SPL outdoor leaders; Mike Evans and Peter Janes, took on a fight for stewardship and won.
In March 2004, the SPL, during a regular meeting with local timber company TimberWest, discovered that a nearby river valley would soon be logged. The pristine Tlools Creek had been overlooked during the original park boundary survey in 1911, but had been identified as a high priority for incorporation within the park several times. It is valley-bottom, old-growth forest, and a major wildlife corridor and winter range for a variety of animals, most notably wolves, and Roosevelt elk.
Soon the trees were falling and the two SPL outdoor leaders, Mike and Peter, decided to do something about the logging of the Tlools valley. Along with Myrna, her son and SPL co-director, Jamie Boulding, Janes and Evans found a way to save the valley. The rescue would involve trading Tlools for a chunk of forest in the Stratchona Park Lodge’s viewscape. To support the trade, SPL would have to place a higher priority on the environmental considerations of the Tlools River Valley than on the value of “a room with a view” for guests at the Lodge. Of course they did. The Strathcona Park advisory committee approved the trade and BC Parks began work to incorporate Tlools River Valley within the Strathcona Provincial Park Boundary.
“There were no tree spikes, no picket signs in front of the MLA office, no media publicity,” Evans later wrote. “There was neither multitudes nor mobilization of people to rally together in solidarity. All it took was a few dedicated people that had an honest and clear message to make a positive change. I reckon all that spiritual activism isn’t so bad after all.”
Could there be a better lesson for the next generation to learn from?
PHOTOS © STRATHCONA PARK LODGE