Travel writers to walk lightly in Riding Mountain

Dragonfly at sunset, Lake Audy, Riding Mountain National ParkWe are honoured to be able to offer the Wild Serenity (#RMwild) itinerary (Manitoba’s only itinerary for GoMedia) for a group of Canadian and international travel writers from September 14 – 18, 2011. With the assistance of Travel Manitoba, our provincial tourism agency, we are looking forward to introducing a number of pre-qualified writers – writers who have chosen to come here – to the Riding Mountains. This is about “experiential travel” (where travellers learn by doing), in the fall, in Manitoba, Canada.

What is GoMedia? GoMedia Canada Is a Canadian marketplace where  Canadian travel organizations get together to tell Canadian and international journalists about some of Canada’s best travel stories. And, just so you know, these stories are not always the ones that are in the news, or at the top of a mountain, or in a famous hotel.

So, what do we have planned? They will taste local foods (regional Riding Mountain cuisine), meet local folks who live here and are part of our local culture or arts scene, go for a walk in the woods, learn what “elk bugling” sounds like, provide opportunities for them to photograph the park and area. They will be off-the-beaten path on side roads, off-trail on animal trails, and perhaps doing some things that they have never done before.

We are pleased that many of our local partners will be providing them with unique experiences. The Elkhorn Resort and Solstice Spa is their base. Riding Mountain National Park is providing a number of unique experiences. Dauphin Tourism, Fort Dauphin and local partners will take us into the heart of local cultural traditions. Jeff Bettle at the Old Church Pottery & Gift in Minnedosa will introduce us to some of his unique pottery with a new experience called Fire & Earth. A signature fall meal will be provided by Siesta Cafe‘s Vaughn Barkman. Clear Lake Golf Course will take them on a behind-the-scenes insight what makes the golf course such a leader in green golf course management. Earth Rhythms will be the primary hosts here in Riding Mountain. We are a boutique tourism operator, creating customized itineraries for small groups year-round. We welcome these travel writers here!

Crystals in the wind

I love snowshoeing. Because I can travel anywhere. I am not restricted to being in a ski track. I can follow wildlife tracks and trails. I can walk over frozen surfaces (with at least 6 – 8 inches of ice) to get to beaver ponds, and access places that would be much more difficult to get to in the summer and fall months.

Snowshoeing is easy to do. It offers good cardio-vascular activity, and it helps me to keep learning more about nature. Each time I go out snowshoeing, I am noticing and learning something new. Perhaps where a woodpecker has been active, or where wolves have made a kill of an elk, or where there is enough running water that has not frozen.

What I love most is the unexpected. Then, I really take notice. Like when the wind from a south breeze moves light crystals of snow on the frozen surface of a lake in Riding Mountain National Park. These crystals are moving along the ground in undulating waves. Take note of these golden waves of snow crystals behaving similar to northern lights, picking up the light intensity of the setting sun, moving in broad patterns with the wind, and moving in undulations that take your breath away. This is HD video. Make it full screen to get the full impact of it.

Being in the right place at the right time is an act of commitment. Going out daily to snowshoe is like a meditation. It helps me to be present.

This colour is sensual

There are certain colours that absolutely turn me on! Magenta (like when we have the first light of day and we have that beautiful colour for only a few minutes as reflections in a still boreal lake) and lime green (as in fresh aspen leaves) are two of my favorites.

Aspen leaves_Riding Mountain National Park

Today, I was out checking logistics for a customized GPS Adventure Quest in the townsite of Wasagaming, as well as meeting Lydia Sarna from the Clear Lake Golf Course restaurant, as we all prepare to welcome and provide unique Riding Mountain experiences for one of Rendez-vous Canada’s pre-conference outings in Manitoba. The new experience we will be delivering is called Riding Mountain Natural Wonders & Prairie Roots.

As I was heading home from my sojourns, I noticed the beautiful and subtle colours of fresh aspen leaves just beginning to emerge. I love this colour – there is something poetic and lovely about them. The smell of fresh aspen sap is heady; and, the resilience of these young leaves in the face of the snow showers that were coming down, made me realize how hardy these young leaves are. It’s a bit of a metaphor for Canadians who welcome spring – heady, slightly under-stated, hardy, and ready for a new adventure. We are looking forward to welcoming the world to  Riding Mountain.

Bees, Bears, Bio-Diesel, and Birds – New Golf Course Management

It’s been my pleasure to watch Greg Holden and the management team at Clear Lake Golf Course over the last 16 years shift the management regime from a traditional turf management approach to one that integrates all aspects of sustainability into its operations. Today, May 1, 201o, the Globe & Mail featured the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park in article about four top “green golf courses” in Canada.

Brain Kendall, author of the article writes..”…All across Canada, courses are dramatically cutting back on the use of water and pesticides, welcoming home birds and animals once regarded as pests, restocking ponds with indigenous fish and coming up with ingenious initiatives to transform the image of a sport long under attack by environmentalists… ” He tees up his article on Canadian environmentally friendly golf courses by featuring Tees With Bees (Bell Bay, Cape Breton); Make Way With Bear (Stewart Creek Golf & C0untry Club, in Alberta’s Bow Valley); Cravings At Clear Lake (Clear Lake Golf Course, Manitoba); and Birdies and Birdwatching (Victoria’s Cordova Bay Golf Course).

Greg won a Manitoba Eco-Network‘s top environmental award in 2009 for the work that they have been doing. And, the Clear Lake Golf Course was also a finalist in last year’s Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s national awards of excellence in the category of “sustainable tourism”.

Earth Rhythms (a Riding Mountain-based learning adventure company) offers a personalized behind-the-scenes electric golf cart experience for small groups by advance reservation.  Turning Green Into Gold – featuring Greg’s stories about thousands of gallons of water saved, innovative gardening tips, use of natural pest fighting agents, an understanding of bio-diesel used in golf course maintenance vehicles, and short excursions to his favorite clipping’s nutrient piles, being at the heart of his “gold compost” resource stream production centre, and seeing some of  innovations in sustainable best practices are featured. This short, 2-hour program will turn your head, inspire you, and hopefully enable you to follow this up with a new appreciation for the history, ecology, and outstanding golf that is offered at Riding Mountain’s Clear Lake Golf Course.

Way to go Greg and team! It seems appropriate to tip our hats to Greg as the new 2010 President of the Canadian Golf Course Superintendent’s Association. This modest leader and pioneer in best practices of sustainable golf course management has much to offer visitors, golfers and the golf industry. He’d be the first to be cautious in handing out advice – but, he is willing to share his own experiences. His are first-class stories of carbon footprint reduction, recycling, and turning waste into resource streams.

An excerpt from this unique “experiential tourism program” will be experienced by 15 international travel buyers from India, China, Japan, the UK and Korea during the first week of May, 2010 as part of Travel Manitoba’s hosting of Rendezvous Canada – an international marketplace for travel buyers of distinctive Canadian experiences.

Clear Lake Golf Course - a Canadian leader in sustainability

Spring migrants arrive

Today, my wife and I were out for our daily walk just south of Riding Mountain National Park. Nine Sandhill cranes were calling overhead as they floated on a thermal and a beautiful turkey vulture (our first of this season) tilted in just over the aspens.

Purple finches, dark-eyed juncos and siskens are taking advantage of the last seed at the feeders.

Purple Finch male eating seed

Male purple finch eats seed – arrives in Manitoba April 2010

I video-taped a strikingly handsome (Click on the the link for details about its range, behaviour and its beautiful spring callFox Sparrow feeding on the ground. You will hear primarily evening grosbeaks and pine siskens and the chittering of dark eyed juncos in this video. At the end of the short video, I slowed down the tape so that you can see the fox sparrow as it takes off.

Lost in the Wilderness!!!

Snowshoeing Moon Lake

Help!!!  We arrived in “total desolation” not knowing what to expect.  It was a “barren wasteland”.  The waiver we signed said “not responsible for death caused by wild animals and parasites”.  Oh-oh! They said this was going to be fun.  They said we were going to learn to partner, to build relationships, and to experience the “T” (tourism) word in a funky value-added format. This was going to be new, fun, interactive, exciting and ultimately beneficial to the bottom line. Ok…sure..whatever…  We had our doubts initially…but now we’re believers!!

The next day was looking up…a bit, at least.  Breakfast was great…generally a good sign, so all was not lost.  Our group was obviously in the same frame of mind.  They didn’t know what to expect either.  However, after a little tongue-wagging we soon learned that their trepidations and expectations were quite similar to our own.

Earth Rhythms was phenomenal!!  The experiential outings were enlightening.  We were drawn to the local customs and traditions.  We were absorbed in the uniqueness of a distinct culture and way of life, feeling as if we belonged to it ourselves and that it had always been our own.  That’s the power of experience and it’s something that everyone can benefit from.  We never dreamed we would dance a traditional Ukrainian jig that looked so amazing in its natural state…until it was utterly destroyed by a couple of rookie bluenosers.  Fortunately for us, we weren’t alone.  The others in our group were as equally “talented” and forgiving.  We felt much better!

It all boils down to this…no matter who you are, or where you go, everyone is the same.  We’re all interdependent and herein lies our strength as human beings.  Together, we can tap into a vast supply of resources that, with a little ingenuity, can benefit one and all.  Together, we can experience, learn, adapt, grow, and profit from each other’s experiences, perceptions and opinions.

We’ve learned to look in our own backyards for the plethora of valuable resources that go un-utilized every day.  These do exist and they’re there for the taking, but sometimes they aren’t revealed until another point of view is expressed.  The full value of those hidden treasures then manifest in a flash of insight, and the hidden economic potential that lies just under our noses is finally revealed.

Our backyards, like the Manitoba “wilderness” may at times seem barren, cold and forbidding, but they can also be warm and inviting.  A cozy bonfire, starting with a tiny glowing ember of warmth – friendship, camaraderie, revelation, and knowledge – eventually grows into a fiery, consuming blaze.  That’s the power of “experiencing” over “observing”.  That’s the power of networking, building solid relationships and lasting partnerships. That’s the power of Best Practices Missions in Manitoba.

Thank you Earth Rhythms!

Blog post by Gem Johnson & Dave Hovey,

Participants on the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010

Outstanding 2010 principal of Canada – in Onanole

Laurie Bachewich_Onanole School Principal

Laurie Bachewich, Onanole Elementary School

Given that this is National Teacher/Staff Appreciation week, I thought that I would share some exciting news about one of Canada’s 32 outstanding school principals of Canada for 2010 who is right here in Onanole.  Are we proud!  It says a lot about small schools. As a resident in Onanole, and as someone whose entire corporate model is built around collaboration, I raise a hand in salute and tip my hat to someone who makes a practice of collaboration – Laurie Bachewich, Manitoba’s only school principal to receive this prestigious national award in 2010.  Laurie is the principal of a great teaching staff at Onanole Elementary School in Onanole, Manitoba.  Together, they rock! Innovative teaching methods, big vision, and a strong connection to community are the hallmarks of this team.

The Learning Partnership announced on January 19 that 32 outstanding Canadian principals will be honoured in Toronto in February. “Great principals build great schools.  They communicate a compelling vision, they engage their communities, they nurture their staff, and they create an environment that increases student success.”  I have been fortunate to work with Laurie over the last couple of years in my capacity as program director for Sonics and Sojourns, an annual festival of music and learning.

I would like to share four characteristics of this school administrator that stand out for me:

  1. An outstanding and un-wavering level of energy that is put out to facilitate the support of the school stakeholder quadruple foundation: students-teachers-parents-community.
  2. Laurie goes out of her way to develop and maintain strong relationships with community representatives, parents, the parent council, and others with whom she has carefully built a long-term commitment to education, educational programming, enrichment, and new opportunities for her students.
  3. Her passion for education, for doing the best that she can for her students.  And, she works within a team of educators who all share that passion, and who bring innovation, great teaching methods, and inspired learning into the school.
  4. An open and willing desire to include innovations in education in partnership with other community initiatives – the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve, Sonics and Sojourns, and many other community initiatives.

The press release is available below for you to read.  We would like everyone in Manitoba to know of Laurie’s success.  Congratulations Laurie!!

Click here to read the press release:  Canada’s Outstanding Principals for 2010 Announced – Laurie Bachewich from Onanole, is the lone Manitoba recipient.  This press release also lists all of the other 31 recipients across Canada.  You may know some of them.

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to those who nominated her, and supported the nomination. We appreciate your efforts to acknowledge those among us, whose dedication and passion to enrich the lives of our children and community sometimes go un-noticed. It’s also great to see the local papers like the Minnedosa Tribune covering her success.

Laurie’s achievements and recognition make me aware of some of the benefits of living in small towns. Good quality education with very low student : teacher ratios is one of them.  Living next to a national park is another. A great quality of life year-round is yet another. And, finally, having a community that supports its educators and local champions is another.

Please pass on this post to anyone who knows of Onanole, has lived in Onanole, or is a visitor to Riding Mountain National Park.  I’d like them to know about Laurie Bachewich.

I like what I read on the Manitoba Teacher’s Society web-site as a quote from Manitoba Association of Parent Councils (MAPC) president Judith Cameron…

Our teachers put a tremendous amount of effort into the learning experience for our children and they’ve become so much more than just educators,” she says. “They have become true partners with parents and other school community groups. They are part of a school-wide dynamic that sees children thrive when proper supports are put in place. Teachers and parents are working together to support classroom learning, and work closely as a team on initiatives that enhance the whole school community. It’s important that we let them know that their efforts are appreciated.”

Cameron encourages parents to take a moment ‘to say thanks to those people who help make their child’s school day a positive experience.‘ ”

Riding Mountain Christmas Bird Count December 22

One of the traditions that we have come to enjoy at this time of the year involves outdoor walking or snowshoeing and driving, while participating in a North American event to count birds.  This will be the 110th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  The Audubon CBC website describes this unique event in the following manner:

“From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission – often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.”

Pileated woodpecker - often seen on the Christmas Bird Count

Ken Kingdon, at Riding Mountain National Park, coordinates the count. He has sent out his annual note to traditional “counters” and invited others to participate.  If anyone is interested, please contact Ken Kingdon at Riding Mountain National Park.  The park is also providing a pre-bird count orientation session for new birders. You can contact Jennifer Gustafson, park interpreter.  She just sent out a note this morning..”

“Hello Everyone,……For all of you who are not  regular birders or want a refresher on the birds we will be seeing take part in our pre-count orientation session.  The Christmas Bird Count Orientation Session will be held at Friends of  Riding Mountain Learning Centre before we head out at 9:00 AM.  Feel free to join us.  Call me at 848-7226 for more information.  We would love to get as many  people out as possible.” – Jen

We spend most of the day walking, hiking, driving, snowshoeing and/or skiing and counting birds by hearing their calls or seeing them.

This citizen science contributes to one of the most important annual snapshots of bird populations and provides important trend information about bird populations in North America.  Ken Kingdon provides a good overview about the Christmas Bird Count in this short video after we had finished last year’s count.

The day is finished off with a great potluck supper and a collaborative addition of all counted species.  A great way to celebrate the spirit of family, a celebration of wild nature, and a reminder to cherish this planet in every action we take.

The business case for sustainability, an interview with Bob Willard

The Business Case for Sustainability – What’s in it for you?

Bob Willard PresentationI recently attended the Manitoba Conservation Districts Annual Convention in Brandon.  The Conservation Districts are doing some great work on the conservation and sustainability front.    I attended a session on the Business Case for Sustainability and had the opportunity to meet Bob Willard, author of several books including most recently The Sustainability Champions Guidebook (How to Transform Your Company), The Next Sustainability Wave,The Next Sustainability Waveand The Sustainability Advantage.

Bob’s presentation was straight-forward.  If you can get an opportunity to see his presentation, do so.  It is well worth it.  I went twice, to both of his presentations, because the information was so compactly presented and in a way that over 200 farm producers and rural folk were able to understand.  That’s really good, because this is a challenging topic no matter what your profession or experience is.   The ability to connect the dots and clearly communicate about the risks, responsibilities and rewards or benefits of becoming a more sustainable enterprise is something that has been needed for a long time.

I interviewed Bob right after his presentation, because I was inspired by what he provided, and interested in his perspectives about sustainability and tourism.  Grab a coffee, or a juice and put your feet up.  This guy has some really neat ideas.  Check out his website Sustainability Advantage. In particular, see the 90 second video introduction from Bob personally.  Well done!

Interview with Bob:

Bob has helped me to articulate  a framework that helps me to bridge my passion for tourism with the business case for sustainability.  I hope that this interview will help you to shift your business towards sustainability.  The planet needs you to do it.  Climate change needs us to act in more innovative ways.  And, wouldn’t it be great to be able to do it in ways that actually increase your profits.

Sharing

What are some suggestions that you have about improvements in your tourism business that have led you forward on the pathway to sustainability?   I would be really interested in hearing your suggestions or examples, so that we can help our entire tourism industry to begin taking the small steps toward sustainability.

Travel and tourism will be tremendously affected by the outcomes of the Copenhagen Climate negotiations, as well as by forthcoming cap and trade legislation that will be passed both in the US and subsequently in Canada.  Not IF, but WHEN.  I think that it behooves all of us to start building in a smart, small-steps approach to sustainability into our annual business plan for our tourism companies.  What do you think?