Proactive education helped keep paradise pristine during a busy summer season at the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
A pilot project that brought a team of summer students in to help visitors stay safe around shorelines, manage their wildlife attractants and understand the importance of keeping their dogs on-leash has earned another showing next summer.
The National Park Reserve waived its fees this year in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation and, to help manage the crowds stampeding into the free opportunity, ten summer students were assembled to create PRNPR’s first-ever ‘Park Ambassadors’ team.
“In addition to sharing information about coastal safety, these young workers helped demonstrate that coexistence between wildlife and people is possible even in very popular areas like Long Beach,” Parks Canada spokesperson Laura Judson told the Westerly News.
Judson said the team roved through the National Park Reserve in pairs, covering over 900 kilometres on foot and recording over 760 face-to-face interactions with visitors. She added the team encountered over 1,800 dogs and brought a “noticeable increase” of leashes being used around Long Beach.
“Since dogs off-leash are seen as prey or competitors by wolves, this step makes a marked difference in keeping wolves wild and visitors safe,” she said adding students also helped keep bears out of the Green Point Campground by creating an attractant-free culture. “Despite considerable bear activity in the campground area, there was no human-bear conflict at Green Point this season.”
The successful pilot program wrapped up last week and Allison Baetz was the last student to head home on Nov. 3. Baetz, who hails from the North West Territories and is studying science at Edmonton’s McEwen University, has worked with Parks Canada for the past five summers, primarily at Inuvik-Ivvavik National Park and was delighted by her first Pacific Rim National Park Reserve experience.
Along with educating visitors, Baetz said she received an inspiring education herself as she jumped on opportunities to hike the West Coast Trail, study marine life around the Broken Group Islands and help stop invasive dune grass from spreading at Wickaninnish Beach. She said the ten-member ambassador team brought the compliance rate of leashed dogs up to over 70 per cent this summer by “educating visitors on why they had to have their dogs on leash and why it was important to the environment they were in and that the beaches here aren’t just a big playground for dogs; the beaches are actually a really important environment to wildlife, like migratory shorebirds.”
She added the team was able to foster sustainable compliance by transforming each visitor into a solid example for others
“A lot of visitors were very compliant in terms of keeping their dogs on leash and making sure that all of their attractants were put away,” she said. “People see all of that as an example so, if there was a new person that went into the campground one day, they saw that absolutely everybody had all their attractants put away and they’d feel like they needed to put their stuff away too.”