COVID restrictions have put a damper on events and activities for local nonprofits and recreational organizations, and the Back Country Horsemen of BC’s North Vancouver Island (BCHBC-NVI) chapter is no exception. To encourage their members on horseback, as well as hikers, joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers, to get out to explore this summer, the group has planned a free COVID-compliant special ‘Observation Challenge’ at the Seal Bay Nature Park.
“We developed this activity for individuals and families to participate in small groups, at their leisure, from July 1 to August 31,” explains event organizer and BCHBC member Terri Perrin. “Considering that the Seal Bay Nature Park is managed by the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), our first step was to ask their permission. We were thrilled that not only did they give their blessing, they also invited us to connect with Active Comox Valley for assistance with some of the administration, promotion support, and prizes.”
“The CVRD has had the privilege of working with BCHBC-NVI for many years,” says Brian Allaert, Parks Technician, Community Services Branch. “Their volunteers have been instrumental in the development and ongoing maintenance of trails at Seal Bay Nature Park, One Spot Trail and Wildwood Forest. Their idea to stage an activity for all park users to enjoy was something we were happy to support.
“Seal Bay Nature Park lies within the unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation and contains many cultural and natural values meaningful to generations of K’ómoks families,” adds Allaert. “Indigenous people refer to these lands as Xwee Xwhya Luq (pronounced Zway Why Luck), meaning ‘a place that has beauty, beauty that is not only seen but also felt.’”
“At Active Comox Valley, we support and promote activities which are affordable, accessible, and family-oriented … and the Observation Challenge is just that,” explains Regan Jamieson, Active Comox Valley Coordinator. “Seal Bay Nature Park is a truly amazing place. It’s a gem that even some long-time residents are not aware of. The Park is one and half times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver, protecting 642 hectares (1,585.6 acres) of biodiversity and treasured wildlife habitat. The primary value of this Park is that it is a large regenerated second-growth forest.”
“The Observation Challenge is designed to encourage people to spend time in the park and look for 12 ‘things’ along the 7.3-km multi-use Forest Loop trail,” explains Perrin. [The Coast Salish name for Forest Loop is ‘ʔayigən’, pronounced ‘eye-eee-gin’.] “My friend, Anne Smythe, and I had fun riding through Seal Bay to identify items and then I created a list of 12 clues. Things to look for can be natural or man-made and, with the exception of the first one being close to the parking lot, all items are located on — and visible from — the Forest Loop trail. We encourage all participants to stay on the designated trails and to practice the BCHBC’s commitment to ‘Leave no trace.’ Be sure to pack a water bottle and wear comfortable shoes because it takes about two hours to leisurely walk the Forest Loop.”
BCHBC members Mike and Shelley Berthiaume helped Perrin with the testing of the clues and provided feedback on their experience.
“Whether hiking with our dogs or riding my horse, we love spending time at Seal Bay Park,” says Shelley Berthiaume. “The Observation Challenge was not only fun it encouraged us to pause and appreciate the beauty of the Park. This would certainly be a fun activity for families and small groups. Best of all … it’s free!”
Printed forms and a poster with guidelines will be available at the information kiosk at the Seal Bay parking lot, 2201 Hardy Road. Or, folks may visit the Active Comox Valley website to download and print the clues and guidelines. Once complete, participants may go online (July 1 to Aug. 31) to enter their answers into a fillable PDF on the Active Comox Valley website for a chance to win prizes, which will be awarded by random draw on Sept. 3. Winners will be contacted by email. Any business or individual interested in donating prizes should contact Perrin.