In the middle of the pandemic, Eva Riccius, Senior Manager with Saanich Parks, was doing a TV interview along the chip trail at Cedar Hill Golf Course. As she shared how being in nature can be vital to both our mental and physical health, two women happened upon them, one a regular park user, the other newer to the experience.
A single mom who was always too busy with work and home, she had found the year’s social isolation and added responsibilities had taken a significant toll on her overall wellness. As she started to go for walks in her neighbourhood, she literally happened upon the Cedar Hill Park trail. Those walks led her to connect with a running buddy online and the resulting mental and physical benefits were nothing short of remarkable, Eva recalls.
It’s just one example among so many that have emerged from the pandemic, as people took the time to slow down and reconnect with these the gifts of nature we’re so fortunate to have all around us.
As Saanich Parks supports residents’ Natural Intelligence, it’s about meeting residents where they’re at in their experience with nature, Eva explains.
It’s also about developing conversations around nature and the natural environment, and taking those conversations to the next level.
The gifts of nature
While enjoying one of Saanich’s 171 parks, you might enjoy the song of a particular bird. Back home, you might look for the bird in the iNaturalist app, leaning about its habitat needs, what it eats, where it nests and any threats to the species.
With that knowledge and awareness, you might consider how our actions impact that bird’s needs, and ways to mitigate those impacts – considerations that could lead you to reduce your environmental footprint, volunteer at a nature centre, or improve your backyard habitat, for example. As we become more curious and learn more about the natural world around us, we form a deeper connection and become more invested in its success.
Exploring – and elevating – that Natural Intelligence is easy in Saanich, where the diversity of park and wild spaces is extraordinary. Consider the flora and fauna you might experience while hiking to the summit of Mount Douglas, for example, compared to what you’ll find beach-side at Cadboro Bay, along the perimeter trail of Rithet’s Bog the or paddling the Gorge Waterway.
From those experiences, you might start seeing broader connections. Perhaps that bird that first caught your eye and ear overwinters in a place where its breeding habitat is threatened, and you explore how you might help preserve it.
“When we’re giving back to the environment, the environment gives back to us,” Eva says.
How can explore your own Natural Intelligence?
First, be curious, Eva says. Check out the Saanich Parks website and plan to visit and learn about different places – maybe gardens one week (like the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, and stewarded spaces like Playfair Park or Gorge Waterway), then hilltop parks another week – think Mount Douglas, Mount Tolmie, Christmas Hill and Knockan Hill, for example.
You can also pick up a Greater Victoria Naturehood map – packed full of ideas – at your Saanich Recreation Centre, or print it here.
The pandemic brought many challenges but also a few gifts, and many people either found a, or deepened their, connection with nature. Let’s hope people continue to build this deep relationship with our natural world as part of the “new normal.”