For those of us fortunate to live in the Comox Valley, we find ourselves encompassed by mountains, lakes, ocean, and rivers on a daily basis. We live, work, and play in the natural playground that is the West Coast. But in today’s online Wi-Fi dependent society, it’s easy to lose ourselves in our screens, to judge our self-esteem based on our number of followers, and to feel the need for constant communication with others.
How do we maintain our balance? How do we reconnect our culture—especially our youth—with nature? Enter Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society (CLWS): a new nonprofit organization aiming to address these questions head on.
Founded in 2015, CLWS is in its second year of operating Cumberland Lake Park (CLP), 24 hectares of pristine wilderness located 3km west of Cumberland. Members of CLWS are passionately dedicated to outdoor stewardship and education, and led by Cumberland resident William Kosloski whose expansive outdoor experience includes endeavours in eco-tourism, guiding, and wilderness-based youth work. These experiences have helped influence the vision of CLWS, which is to help build bridges between nature and today’s society.
Under this philosophy, CLWS is excited to offer dynamic new programming at CLP this summer. In the Get Wild Weekend for adults—and a similar Get Wild Mini Camp for youth—participants spend 48 hours outside learning to survive off the land without modern amenities. While valuable skills are learned, Kosloski stresses that these programs are also designed to rejuvenate people’s relationship with the natural environment:
“Healthy human development has evolved with nature for thousands of years, and it’s only in this short period of human history that we have become ‘plugged in.’ The programs being offered and developed at CLWS provide an opportunity for people to start looking at how they can connect with wild space, viewing nature as animate and alive, and understanding our place within the natural community is not separate. Which, in a technologically driven culture, we can often be led to believe is the case.”
The ecologically diverse park area also lends itself to new programs based around rock climbing and paddling for kids and youth. These programs aim to build confidence, determination, and environmental respect by mixing the fun of play with specific skill development.
With the Village of Cumberland being in such close proximity to the park, CLWS has also expanded its relationship with the community to include school-based programs in conjunction with Cumberland Community School (CCS). There, the Explorer Wilderness Program was implemented this year as an interactive outdoor awareness course for students in grades 6 through 9. Weekly trips to the lake saw students getting out of their classrooms, learning about the natural environment, and practicing skills such as building fires and shelters.
Rachael Black, CCS Outdoor Education teacher, sings high praises for CLWS:
“I’m grateful to be able to connect my students with amazing facilitators like William Kosloski and Emily Blezard of the CLWS. They are passionate about bringing people into the wilderness, and skilled at facilitating meaningful learning experiences for all participants in their programs. Students are thriving in the Explorer Wilderness Program, which focuses on building relationships to self, others, the environment, and the community through experiential learning in the outdoors.”
CLWS has also hosted the Hand-in-Hand Early education program for pre-school aged children, giving them access to the park for outdoor-based learning activities. This is a great example of CLWS’s initiative to explore partnerships with other instructors and programs in order to maximize use of the park’s abundant resources.
So, if you get the chance to visit Cumberland Lake Park this summer, or if you have kids who need to be pried away from their screens, be sure to check out the CLWS website for a full rundown of park operations and programs. Because, as Kosloski wisely reminds us, “A healthy community starts with positive relationships with wilderness.”