Whether it’s a rock, leaf, animal or bug, Abby Matheson says everything in nature has a fascinating story. This summer, the university student was able to share these amazing stories with Okanagan’s regional parks’ visitors - thanks to funding from the CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative, which is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program.
“This job has opened my eyes to all of the interesting things in nature that people often take for granted,” says Abby, who spent her summer working as a Student Park Interpreter with the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
“This job has opened my eyes to all of the interesting things in nature that people often take for granted.”
“This job has opened my eyes to all of the interesting things in nature that people often take for granted” - Abby Matheson, student
As part of her job, Abby ran environmental educational programs for park users and was able to learn about and teach many interesting topics – including bear biology and participating in a late night guided meteor shower event.
“Every day is exciting,” she says, adding that she felt her summer job helped visitors have more enjoyable, meaningful and complete experiences at regional parks. “When I educate visitors about what makes a park special, it opens a conversation about conservation, and encourages park users to help protect these places for generations to come.”
Isabella Hodson, the Regional District of Central Okanagan’s supervisor for Community Relations and Visitor Services, says the Parks Visitor Services department hired a total of five students this summer - four through the Green Jobs Initiative, and one through the Canada Summer Jobs program. The Parks Operations team also hired one additional student through the Green Jobs Initiative.
These were more job placements than ever before, she says, adding that the positions had a tremendous impact on the community – connecting visitors of all ages with nature.
For example, “Point Duties” were set up around the parks and included tents, tables, or activity stations with touch-and-feel nature artifacts and pictures, staffed by an engaged and knowledgeable interpreter.
“They encourage and invite the public to get their hands dirty, to feel the fur on a black bear pelt or lift up a moose antler and feel its mighty weight in their hands” - Abby Matheson, student
“They encourage and invite the public to get their hands dirty, to feel the fur on a black bear pelt or lift up a moose antler and feel its mighty weight in their hands,” she describes. “To very gently push one finger into an owl mount to discover that the bird is mostly feathers with only a small skeleton beneath. To listen to the sounds of a hoary marmot or a red squirrel and what each of those sounds means… It’s making these connections. Making nature real, not just an abstract concept. It’s understanding the pulse of the earth – how each insect, animal, plant, fungi, rock is connected, and understanding our relationship with our biodome.”
Isabella adds that all of the staff benefitted from employing youth like Abby.
“Employing youth, with the passion and energy and charisma that they bring, invigorates our organization,” Isabella says. “Not only do these green jobs help us get out into our parks system with public programs, but the youth we employ revitalize our permanent staff and bring a real zest for life and passion for nature interpretation with them, which in turn ignites everyone in the organization and puts a smile on their face at work each and every day.”
Abby says she would definitely apply for this job or a similar one again if given the opportunity. She made lifelong friends and connections in Geography, her field of study, and says she had unforgettable experiences.
But, the job also helped her appreciate nature more.
“Explore your local parks,” Abby says. “You never know what you will discover.”
The CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative supports Goal 3 ‘Connecting People & Nature’ and Goal 5 ‘Recreation Capacity’ within the Framework for Recreation in Canada. The Framework serves as a foundation for the work of the parks and recreation sector.
To read all success stories go to: https://www.cpra.ca/stories