Connecting with the Outdoors: A Conversation with UW Parks Club

UW Parks Club co-leaders Clara and Eloise share what UW Parks Club has been up to, their thoughts on sustainability and their vision for a sustainable future.   

1. Tell us about yourself 

Clara: My name is Clara and I’m going into my fourth and final year in Environment, Resources and Sustainability with a double minor in Parks and Psychology here at the University of Waterloo. I just finished my last co-op placement working in Public Outreach and Education for Parks Canada and am incredibly interested in environmental education and science communication. This has been my third student job working for Parks Canada and I hope to pursue a career within the agency after graduation. In my spare time I love to hike, try out new recipes and have recently gotten into adventure and landscape photography. UW Parks Club walking through forest

Eloise: My name is Eloise, and I am starting my third year at the University of Waterloo studying Environment, Resources and Sustainability with a specialization in Ecological Restoration and Rehabilitation and Geographic Information Systems. During my last co-op position as a Stewardship Officer with the Canadian Wildlife Service I helped review habitat and wetland projects in the Ontario Region. It was an incredible experience to work with so many passionate and knowledgeable individuals. I learned so much about the importance and the purpose of the Canada Wildlife Act. I’m a novice birder and I’ve been practicing my plant identification skills on nature walks. I love to swim, run, and bike. 

2. What inspired you to start this initiative at Waterloo? What sustainability issues does your group support? 

Clara: The University of Waterloo Parks Canada Campus Club has existed since around 2016-2017, way before myself and my fellow co-leaders took over the club leadership in Fall 2021. The entire past leadership of the club graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the club inactive for almost 2 years. When I saw on the club’s Instagram that they were looking for a new leadership takeover, I jumped at the opportunity. I was made aware of the Parks Canada Campus Club network through my past work with Parks Canada. There are currently over 40 universities across Canada with affiliated clubs that seek to encourage students to get outside and be connected to nature. Due to Waterloo’s location and proximity to other large urban cities, it can be hard for students to have access to nature. Our club seeks to help bridge that accessibility gap by providing members with opportunities to explore and discover conservation areas, provincial and national parks. Not only do we plan excursions to these areas, but also arrange transportation such as carpooling so that everyone can attend regardless of owning a personal vehicle. 

Eloise: Similarly, to Clara, when I saw that the UW Parks Canada Club was looking for new leadership in September of 2021, I instantly jumped on the opportunity. As a student who started their first year amidst the pandemic and online courses, I was looking for a way to connect with other students and find a sense of community. And that is exactly what I found! I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of our members while enjoying the outdoors and discovering new areas of Ontario! 

3. What was a memorable experience that you feel can or does have an impact on campus/community or more? 

Clara: My most memorable experience was definitely the club’s first in person event under the new leadership, which consisted of a socially distanced nature walk in Huron Natural Conservation Area. It was so great to see our members in person rather than over Teams! Another reason that this event was so significant was that it really fostered a sense of community since members who had been socially isolated for so long finally got to meet in person and feel connected. 

Eloise: This summer, our club organized a beach day at Long Point Provincial Park. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday, we spent the day swimming, enjoying the beach and exploring the quaint town of Long Point. Most of the members who attended the event were on a study term for the summer. Thus, being able to get outside provided a much-needed break from schoolwork.  For many of us, it was our first time discovering Long Point and swimming in Lake Erie. I had a blast and was really happy to have made some great friends from the day and explore a new corner of Ontario! 

UW Parks Club at the beach

4. What is your vision of a sustainable future? 

Our shared vision of a sustainable future includes having the outdoors be accessible for everyone. We understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and our club is committed to engage and support students from diverse backgrounds to experience the outdoors. Connecting youth to nature has been our mission at the UW Parks Canada Club. As well, allowing for students to have accessible and memorable experiences. These experiences are crucial to spark a love of the outdoors and, we hope, will create an appreciation and a motivation to protect them. We feel that it is especially important to have a personal connection to our natural environments. We are part of the ecosystems around us and going outdoors can be the start of important conversations and community building. 

5. Are there any resources for those who are interested in learning more about the sustainability issue you care about or your club that you would like to share?  

Other great resources for those interested in similar initiatives and activities to those offered by the UW Parks Canada Club are the Sustainable Development Goals Impact Alliance and Society for Ecological Restoration (SER-UW). These clubs offered at the University of Waterloo focus their efforts on similar initiatives to our own club. In the past, we have even collaborated on club events together that align with our core values.  

Outside of campus, another great resource is Parks Life on Facebook and Twitter. Parks Life is Parks Canada’s youth-focused social media presence that highlights youth-led initiatives related to sustainability, conservation and history within the Agency.  

UW Parks Club in the forest

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