River journey will make stop at Hell’s Gate

Participants learn importance of B.C.'s river system

Hope’s backyard is being used as part of an outdoor classroom that explores sustainable living.

The Rivershed Society of BC’s Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP) is a three-week field course that spans the entire length of the Fraser River, including a rafting excursion through Hell’s Gate.

The program is expected to show participants parts of the province that they normally wouldn’t see, and in turn change the way they look at the river system.

From Aug. 2 – 26, participants journey by foot, van, canoe and raft from the Fraser’s headwaters in northeastern B.C. to where it meets the shores of Vancouver, 1,400 kilometers away.

Participants will hike part of the Goat River Trail, a historic pass through the Caribou Mountains that was travelled by First Nations traders and pioneering gold prospectors. They will raft through Hell’s Gate, B.C.’s famous white water rapids in the heart of the Fraser Canyon. They get to travel the most off-the-beaten-track parts of the province, with skilled facilitators to interpret the geography, biology and history of the landscape.

Program organizers say the month-long journey inspires and educates through hands-on experience, and opens the door to a network of community leaders in the Fraser River watershed. Participants are given the time to develop and plan projects they can implement in their own communities – and many have gone on to do incredible things.

Michelle Nickerson, 2009 alumni, has become an inspirational wild salmon activist. She launched the Fraser River Ripple Effect, a collection of people and projects focused on healthy salmon and watersheds. In 2010, Michelle organized the Ripple Relay, a 2,800 kilometre bike tour around the entire Fraser River Basin that connects participants with watershed stewards and wild salmon supporters at community events along the route. The tour has become an annual event, and a 2012 Ripple Relay is currently in the works.

Mary Forbes, 32, is an SLLP 2010 alumni and the director of the Potato House Sustainable Community Society in Williams Lake. She started the non-profit society just two months after returning from the river. With community support the society was able to purchase and restore a heritage house – The Potato House – which now serves as a public space for all kinds of sustainability and heritage initiatives and partnerships.

Glenda Newstead, a 2007 alumni, went on to become a facilitator in the program. Now, she gets paid to travel the river sharing her knowledge and joy of the outdoors with new participants.

Anyone with an interest in sustainability or community development is encouraged to apply for this year’s program. Participants must be 19 years of age or older and physically fit. Community volunteer experience is an asset. The application deadline is May 18.

For more information or to apply visit www.rivershed.com.