Working With Local Youth for Ecological Restoration Within Hampton Park
The Canadian Wilderness Stewardship Program (CWSP) is an educational experience designed to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards in Canada by connecting youth to nature and their local communities.
The 2021-2022 season is well underway. The program consists of three phases:
- A wilderness expedition: this year, we took participants on a two-day white-water canoe and camping trip along the Noire River with Esprit Whitewater
- A volunteer project: an educational or environmental stewardship project.
- A summit: an opportunity for participants from across Canada to gather, share ideas, and further develop leadership and advocacy skills.
We had the opportunity to speak with Mesha Sagram, a CWSP participant, about her experience and project.
Why did you apply for the CWSP?
I’m a CPAWS-OV donor and previous volunteer, so I receive the monthly newsletter. I read about this fantastic opportunity and knew I had to apply.
I was interested in joining the program as I studied environmental science and ecosystem restoration at university. My goal is to one day work directly within environmental conservation, but for the time being I’m focused on remote sensing for ocean mapping.
This was an exciting opportunity to get back to my educational roots and connect me with my field and what I’m passionate about.
What other parts of the program intrigued you?
I was interested in meeting other youth and going on the wilderness expedition.
The camping and canoe trip was a lot of fun!
It was very well organized, which meant us as participants didn’t have to think too much about it as everything was taken care of. We had experienced people teaching us to canoe, which empowered us to go on such a long trip. It was something I never thought I’d be able to do!
We had great group discussions around the campfire at night. I was able to connect with people I otherwise would never have met and it helped me forge long-term friendships.
Can you tell us about your project?
My project focused on removing Japanese knotweed in Hampton Park.
This plant is an invasive species with a huge impact on ecosystems because it grows in dense, bamboo-like thickets so no one other species can grow in its area.
Japanese knotweed therefore destroys ecosystems and impacts the economy because it can grow through concrete, so infrastructure needs to be regularly fixed or maintained in its growth area.
I partnered with Friends of Hampton Park for a two-day project to lead the volunteer project of removing Japanese knotweed in the area and installing geotextile fabric to deter its regrowth.
What made you want to focus on this?
I was excited about doing this restoration because it’s something I did at a previous job and really enjoyed. I got to take on a leadership role with this project, and the Friends of Hampton Park and I are currently discussing doing more volunteer work together, including revisiting the area in a few months to see how the soil is recovering and plant native species.
What impact did the CWSP have on you?
I have a group of people in my network now that are interested in the same things as me, helping to build not only friendships but my confidence with outdoor activities.
I’m now able to better promote ecological restoration projects, knowing I can give my ideas to a group and have others be interested. This is very motivating, especially as I’m working slightly outside my main field of study right now.
The CWSP had a big impact on my life and I’m looking forward to meeting up with people from the group in the future to continue forging friendships.