With COVID-19 keeping tourists away from the West Coast so far this year, the Wild Pacific Trail Society is bringing Ucluelet’s outdoors to them through a series of popular videos showcasing and interpreting the trail’s many wonders.
“Because of COVID-19, we could not do in-person naturalist programs, so we decided to take the plunge into brand new territory and produce these videos, which not only reach out to locals but people all over the world,” society president Barbara Schramm told the Westerly News.
The society has posted unique videos to its website as part of its new Learn Where You Live series and, Schramm said, the reception has been “huge” out of the gate, with many organizations reaching out to commend the society and add their input to the videos.
“It’s phenomenal,” Schramm said. “Organizations we’ve never reached out to are coming to us…It was never our goal to raise our profile, it was our goal to reach people and help them connect with nature, but a side benefit has been it’s increased our profile.”
The trail has long been revered as the jewel in Ucluelet’s ruggedly West Coast crown and the society that maintains it has remained steadfast to the mission of inspiring environmental stewardship.
“Once you learn to love nature you will do anything to protect her,” Schramm said. “After this pandemic, the next big crisis, of course, is the environment. So, it’s very important for us as a society to do what we can to inspire people for the future, to be better stewards of the planet.”
She suggested Ucluelet’s “phenomenally impactful location” makes the town uniquely positioned to inspire admiration of the outdoors and the society interprets that position as an inherent responsibility to create connections.
“We have a big impact on connecting people to nature. It’s not good enough for people to just walk the trail and stare at the ocean, we want them to have a personal connection, be it with a slug or a tree. It’s sometimes the first time people have ever had that relationship,” she said. “That’s why we’ve pivoted from building trails into education. We’ve realized more isn’t better. We’re going for quality connection to nature. We’re not just trying to bring in as many bodies as possible through the trail, that’s not our goal, our goal is to actually have an impact on the visitors, including the locals.”
In order to maintain a vibrant and impactful presence, however, the society relies on donations dropped into boxes set up at trailheads and, Schramm said, those boxes have seen a “jaw-dropping” decline, plummeting from hundreds of dollars a month to just $7 in April.
“We’ve lost 99 per cent of our income at the trailheads,” she said. “With no money coming in, we’re spending down our bank account.”
She said the society has been meticulously saving up for over 20 years with eyes on big projects like a heavily desired nature centre facility near the Amphitrite Lighthouse, but is now having to dip into those savings to stay afloat.
She hopes the online videos will motivate viewers to begin dropping dollars into the society’s online donation platform at www.wildpacifictrail.com.
“The donations on a normal day-to-day were just a couple of dollars for anyone walking the trail,” she said. “We’re seeing thousands of people playing the films, if every one of them just gave $1, we’d be sitting pretty…We’re not asking for big, big, donations, there’s a lot more important things going on in the world, but very small donations multiply rapidly.”
She added the videos have also strengthened the society’s relationship with local First Nations and those partnerships have infused each video with fascinating traditional knowledge.
“We’ve always had a good connection with the local First Nations and they are really stepping up with inputting content into our videos,” she said. “We’re really appreciative of the partnerships we’re forming with the [Ucluelet First Nation] and the Tla-o-qui-aht…That relationship is wonderful.”
The videos are hosted by the Wild Pacific Trail’s Tanya Nestoruk and, Schramm added, Arya Touserkani of Waterlogue Creative has been vital to the video series’ success.
“By happy chance, this videographer team happened to become Tanya’s roommates just before the lockdown, which made filming possible,” she said.