The Lakes District is home to a number of opportunities, such as camping, fishing, mountain biking and hunting to name a few, that outdoor enthusiast can take advantage of over the course of the year.
That enthusiasm for the outdoors, and the opportunities it presents and the resources it gives the community is very evident in the people who live in the area.
Cole Bernard is no different.
Bernard recently attended the kids conservation camp at the Bear Claw Lodge in the Kispiox Valley, a camp that teaches the attendees how to live off the land, and how to protect the land and its resources.
Bernard attended this camp as the recipient of the ‘I Fight for Life’ fund, which was set up by another local, Burns Lake resident Rachelle van Zanten.
The ‘I Fight for Life’ fund is named after the song that van Zanten wrote, recorded and produced, and is a song in opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, and why the project is harmful and not beneficial to the area.
The fund is composed of the money that van Zanten made from the royalties of the song.
Bernard was the winner of this year’s fund, and got to attend the camp because of his application van Zanten says.
“Cole’s application was the great, and he was the perfect recipient for this fund,” van Zanten said, “He is a true child of the Lakes District, spending most of his days revelling in what this area has to offer. He is growing up very tied to the land and has a deep respect for it.”
“His application was very inspiring to read, he was excited to attend the camp and be amongst children who were as passionate about the outdoor life as he is.”
Bernard says his application was about the enjoyment of the Lakes District.
“My application was about the land, how you connect with and what you do and how you can enjoy it and about the different uses for the land in a conservation way,” Bernard said.
Camp attendees range in age from 10-15-years-old with the kids being split into age groups over two separate weeks.
Kids age 10-12-years-old attend one camp, this year in July, and kids age 13-15-years-old attend another camp, this year held Aug. 12-19.
The camp in the Kispiox Valley teaches attendees a number of new skills and lessons, including how to fish in the river, how to identify different animal and plant species and how to built a shelter in the woods.
As well, those who attend get to participate in other numerous activities.
Bernard said some of his favourite activities included cliff water rescuing, knot tying, learning how to use maps, horseback riding and a man tracking event.
However, his favourite activity from the camp was fishing.
“I really enjoyed the fishing,” Bernard said, “I was one of the few people that actually caught a spring salmon. The fish I caught was 15 lbs or so, and it was really exciting.”
As well, Cole said he learned a number of things about taking care of the environment, such as not throwing plastic and other harmful material on to a campfire.
Van Zanten says that to see someone as young as Cole take on leadership roles by wanting to attend the camp is a great sign that the land will continue to be preserved.
“A lot of children in this area grow up very tied to the land as it how we are raised here,” van Zanten said, “To see someone as young as Cole taking on leadership roles in land preservation is a sign that we will be okay 40 years down the road.”
Van Zanten also points out that Cole won the best all around camper at the July camp this year, another big accomplishment.
For his part Bernard said that he would absolutely attend the camp again next year because the experience was so great.
“The camp was amazing, and was really fun and entertaining, I had a great time,” Bernard said, “The people that ran the camp were great. The way the talked and interacted with us and how they treated us were great, and the activities we got to do were really exciting, fun and educational.”
Bernard has really motivated van Zanten to make sure that she can present this opportunity to another recipient next year and in the years to come, saying that it’s important to have young kids wanting to become stewards for the land.
Another goal is to start a camp of her own.
“Without kids like Cole, who will stand up for the lakes, the land, and every life that depends on them? Without our drinking water, we have nothing left,” van Zanten said, “We are a fish nation and with kids like Cole we will be for years to come.”