Looking out the window today, you might not be thinking too much about getting out into nature anytime soon. But Don Carruthers den Hoed thinks about Alberta’s parks and natural spaces often, and he believes that everyone should be encouraged to do the same.
The Education alum (MA ‘07) and current Interdisciplinary PhD candidate in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies is exploring current, emerging, and hidden narratives of nature, place, wellness, and of parks and protected areas, and he says that as society becomes more diverse, parks must respond to ensure there are stewards to take care of our wild places and ecosystems. “Put simply, “he says, “we need embrace social diversity to protect biodiversity.”
Carruthers den Hoed will present his work in a discussion today, beginning at noon in MFH 2370. “Everyone Belongs Outside” will focus on the initiatives such as Push to Open Nature, Nature as a Second Language programs for new Canadians, Nature Play Day and the Child and Nature Alliance.
Carruthers den Hoed says Alberta's Plan for Parks, called the Inclusion Strategy, is a priority action for the next ten years which builds on a long history of inclusion with programs like the Blackfoot First Nations interpreters at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, and barrier-free facilities like William Watson Lodge, Mt. Lorette Ponds, and the Universal Trails System at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.
“As I encounter more diverse groups, I find my ideas of what parks are, what the benefits of nature are, and even what makes an experience meaningful being challenged,” explains Carruthers den Hoed. “From day one we committed to ensuring it was not just about mobility barriers, but also developmental, sensory, learning, chronic pain, and other disabilities.”
“We’ve also partnered with the Institute of Canadian Citizenship to offer new Canadians free camping, day passes at the Canmore Nordic Centre, free bus trips at Dinosaur Provincial Park, and more. Each of the programs I’ll talk about are designed to simply introduce people to activities and places, help them feel welcome, and to give us a chance to learn from each other.”
“We are making progress,” he says, “but we do still have a long way to go to remove barriers and really make parks inclusive. Most importantly, we must take off the blinders to what is possible and realize that nature helps everyone feel connected to life. Everyone belongs outside.”