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REDISCOVERING THE LOOKOUT

A look at the Nature Trust's youth stewardship partnership with Outward Bound Canada and the importance of reconnecting youth with nature

WRITTEN BY: BETHANY YOUNG, STEWARDSHIP MANAGER

In the summer of 2017, I was asked to be part of Outward Bound Canada’s expedition to New Brunswick for youth aged 16 to 18. One of their outings included a paddle across the Kennebecasis Bay to Long Island to visit Minister’s Face Nature Preserve, which protects a stunning cliff face and forested upland habitat, to help with some trail work. I was happy to attend and lead them on this journey, even though it would be only my second time paddling.

We landed on the beach and started to explore the old trail that led to the preserve, cutting back any tree branches that were overgrown. Gradually, as we moved closer to the iconic lookout on the Minister's Face cliffs, the trail became rough, so teamwork with the youth group was essential in order to get to the top and take in the gorgeous view which overlooks the Kennebecasis Valley.

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Andrew Stokes-Rees, Program Manager for Outward Bound Canada’s Atlantic Chapter, leads one of the Nature Trust’s youth stewardship groups. He says that the Outward Bound curriculum has service at its core, which connects youth with nature for the benefit of the environment and society. He believes that people make choices in life based on what they experience as youth, and in today's society, opportunities to get outside and explore the natural world are decreasing.

Oftentimes, youth are only exposed to indoor or turf sports for physical activity, and outdoor adventure opportunities like forested hikes, big canoe paddles, or sea-kayaking are rare. This lack of outdoor exploration shows its impact on youth in more ways than one. When Andrew interacts with his youth groups and asks what career paths they would like to take, many answer back with technology-based careers, like application development or video game design, and rarely with careers in the outdoors.

The partnership between Outward Bound and the Nature Trust is incredibly special and important, as it exposes youth to wilderness exploration and teaches wilderness skills that they may not obtain elsewhere, such as serving community, trail building, and more. Many of the skills that the youth learn about on these stewardship trips are being lost to technology.

Outward Bound brings urban youth from other provinces and countries to New Brunswick to explore our province's wilderness. They also involve several local outdoor pursuits classes from the Saint John area on stewardship days to nearby nature preserves. In 2018, Andrew and his youth group took on the mammoth task of stewarding Frye Island Nature Preserve in the Passamaquoddy Bay, as part of their sea-kayak expeditions.

Working with Outward Bound has been mutually beneficial, to give youth the opportunity to make a difference in their community and to learn about environmental management, while allowing the Nature Trust to reach a wider audience and work with many groups across the province. Outings to nature preserves with Andrew are often followed up with the question of, "When can we go back?". This is an excellent reminder that the love of nature that has been instilled in many New Brunswickers is not lost on future generations.

The Nature Trust is pleased to be working with other young stewards, including the Oromocto High School Youth Stewards of the Environment and l’École Samuel-de-Champlain. We welcome the involvement of other youth groups who would like to help monitor nature preserves annually, help remove invasive species, plant trees, host cleanups, attend a guided hike, or restore trails.