Low-cost outdoor education camp supports community connection for Comox Valley teens

Low-cost outdoor education camp supports community connection for Comox Valley teens
Photo by Sara Kempner
Comox Lake is both a water source and a recreational area for the Comox Valley.

This spring, some Comox Valley teens will have the opportunity to connect with the land, themselves and each other through outdoor activities at Cumberland Lake Park Campground.

Lake Park Society’s Land-Care / Self-Care Camp runs over five Saturdays and will focus on environmental action and mental health. Thanks to a partnership with Island Health, the cost for participants is just $10.

Stuart Higgs, director of education and events at Lake Park Society, says he has noticed an overwhelming concern in a lot of youth he works with about the environmental future they face.

“When I was in high school, it was very much like, this is a scary thing that’s coming. But for youth today, I don’t think it feels like something that’s coming, I think it feels like something that’s here,” he says.

Higgs hopes that the day camps will help youth who are facing tough mental health situations by spending time outside and building relationships with their peers.

“And that’s really supported by so much research,” said Higgs.

A January 2024 study published in Scientific Reports found that a 40-minute nature walk enhances executive control at a neural level. In comparison to time spent in urban environments, the researchers found that the nature walk was more restorative.

Spending time outdoors has also been shown to help mental health in children.

Higgs says that it’s important not to candy-coat the concern of climate change, but he also thinks it is important to inspire hope.

“This is not a catastrophe that the window for engagement has closed on. There’s still room to fight for a relationship with this place and the land.”

The program is for youth ages 13 to 15, and priority is given to residents of Vancouver Island and nearby Gulf Islands. It begins on April 13 and runs through until May 11, from 10 a.m to 3 p.m at Cumberland Lake Park Campground.

Higgs says that the society has a full five Saturdays planned out.

“We’re going to really try and balance skill building and deep conversations around mental health and wellness, resilience, and the environment with some really playful, fun activities,” he says.

The fun activities include canoeing, hiking, and crafting with harvested invasive plants to create materials. There will also be educational discussions around Comox Lake Watershed.

Registration is open now. Higgs says there are many spots already filled, but a few remain.

Those interested in the program can call 250-702-8833 or find information on the website. The society will also be hosting a variety of other summer activities for youth of varying ages, and more information on those programs can also be found on their website.

Madeline Dunnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

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