Participants of the Sustainable Living Leadership Program launch a canoe at Kilby Provincial Park on Wednesday morning

River journey teaches sustainable living

Travelers ready to take lessons back to the community

When Jacquie Lanthier heads back to the classroom this fall, she’ll be going in recharged and ready to pass along what she’s learned this summer.

The rural B.C. teacher is one of seven people who were chosen to travel down the Fraser River with the Rivershed Society of B.C. The 1,400 km journey started near Valemont on Mount Robson and will continue right out to the sea. On Tuesday night the group arrived at Kilby Provincial Park, 20 days into their life-changing journey.

“I teach in a one room school in Goldbridge, with five or six kids,” Lanthier says, standing on the shore of the river Wednesday morning. Like all the other participants in this 25-day journey, she has a plan in place to share her experience with the world.

“I want to develop a unit on salmon (for the classroom) and also share what I’ve learned with the community,” she said. Despite being far from big urban areas, the small community near Lillooet has its share of environmental concerns, including extensive logging use, hydroelectric projects at Bridge River, and the Bralorne Gold Mine.

Lanthier hopes that bringing the knowledge she’s acquired back to her community can help conservation efforts, and foster sustainable living.

The group is led by Fin Donnelly, MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody.

He swam the length of the river back in 1995, and formed the Rivershed Society a year later. He has since swam the river again, and has made this trek nine times with the leadership program.

“There’s no better way to learn about sustainability than to be out there in the environment, on the river, going from community to community and witnessing the issues,” Donnelly says.

Sixty people, aged 19 to 35, have gone through the program, which travels by canoe, raft and foot. For the journey through Hope and Harrison Mills, they traveled in a 34 foot canoe. Further up the river, they were chartered through the rougher waters by Fraser River Raft Expeditions.

“You’re immersed in the river,” says Amy Law, 25. “You see the beauty of it, and its problems.”

The Quesnel woman works with the Baker Creek Enhancement Society, which does school and community outreach and education. Like Lanthier, she will also find ways to bring what she learned back to her community. This is Law’s second year traveling with the group — a rare occurrence. But this time around she’s a trainee facilitator, with the intention of coming back as a facilitator in the future.

It’s not just the river education that has her hooked; it’s the river itself.

“I’m passionate about the river,” she says. “I can feel the power of the river.”

And the program is designed to inspire you to lead others.

“It’s motivating to have someone put that confidence in you,” she says. “They inspire young people to keep working on issues they believe in.”

And she has been inspired greatly. Law is hoping to create a Fraser River Relay for 2015, with a core group of four people each doing two hour stints each day.

To learn more about the Sustainable Living Leadership Program, visit rivershed.com.