We have now made it east to west. We have crossed Canada and seen a lot of land. All 10 provinces! It was a pretty amazing journey, but one thing really stood out, how access to nature varies across the country.
When I think of Canada, I think the of the trees, the forest, the wilderness in abundance. We are so fortunate to have so much of it and to have some of it protected for future generations.
We experienced so much of that while visiting our first province. Newfoundland is wild. Access to so much of the green space is free, easy to get to and free of rules. You are able to just be in nature; to camp, to have a fire, to let your dog run free, to simply wander and explore.
Nova Scotia right after was a contrast. The first thing we discovered is that a big part of the province is private property. The coast line is houses, pretty much the entire way around. The interior is mostly owned by logging companies and most seem to gate their access roads. It was a challenge just finding a spot to be. The province did a great job setting in small pockets of free day use parks, but most have fallen out of the natural category with the trees cut in favour of grass, roadways weaving everywhere leading to picnic benches and shelters.
The numerous beaches had rules. Day use only. Limited access to certain areas. No dogs. The rules went on. Each and every lot had a 5×5 foot sign and you needed 5 minutes to read it before you could set foot in the ocean.
It is a situation we saw repeatedly as we headed west. It often felt quite hard to find a spot to just be free in the trees.
As hard as it is to accept, I do understand the need for rules. They are there to help protect the area, to ensure it is there for others. As more and more people visit a spot, more rules need to be put in place. Sometimes it is because people are not respecting the core values of “Leave No Trace”. Sometimes it is just a few vocal locals that are trying to protect their spot. I get it.
We see a lot of these same rules in the National Parks we visit. Limits to where and when you can roam and where you can camp. There are the fees to enter the park, camp in the park, and sometimes see particular items in the park. These start to add up. It is expensive to spend a weekend camping in a National Park. It’s too bad, but at least we know those fees are going towards protection (or at least they are suppose to be). It’s a little frustrating but when you see the large groups of tourist and the tour buses showing up, it’s what needs to be done. Is it really nature anyways, though, when a tour bus can pull right up beside it?
I think what has affected me most, is not rather there is access or not, rather there are 100 rules and restrictions to each place. It’s the costs associated with simply wanting to spend a night in the woods, a day on the river or just to be outside in a beautiful landscape. So many of these parks, rather government ran or private just have so many fees. It really starts to add up. The costs associated with it prevents people from getting out. It prevents us from getting out.
I know for me personally, I fell in love with outdoor spots that you didn’t have to pay to play. You have your initial investment into the gear, and you are good to go from there. Whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, surfing, but now even those outings are seeing more and more fees.
We live in a time that’s hard enough. It is stressful and everything is expensive. We are stretched financially in every direction. Getting out may be the only relief for so many, as we have seen from the project, from the stories we have done.
I don’t have an answer, I don’t have a solution, but I do have one question. Do the fees associated with accessing nature prevent you from getting out?