My best Canada's Parks Day wishes!
It was summer of 1983, or maybe 1984. I was six or seven years old, and this is the earliest memory I have of a national park experience. I vividly remember standing in the cold waters of the Bay of Gaspé, with the water just above my knees. It was at the Penouille peninsula, in Forillon National Park. In the company of an interpreter — and my parents, of course — we were searching for marine critters, which we would then identify and discuss. I clearly remember seeing or catching crabs, small fish, shrimp, sand dollars and several species of gastropods and other molluscs. Of course, after catching them, we were told how important it was to put them back safely into their environment, and we did so. I got hooked, no pun intended.
I don’t really know if it was just a thought or if I really said it aloud, but I told myself, “One day I’m going to work here!” I was looking at the interpreters with admiration, and I could already picture myself doing with others what they had just done with me: they made me fall in love with that place.
Fast forward to 1998. I was studying geology at Laval University and, like all my colleagues, I was searching for a summer job. I had not forgotten about Parks Canada and had applied to become an interpreter at La Mauricie National Park for the summer. By May, I had not yet received a job offer, and I was starting to worry. But one morning, the phone rang. When I picked it up, I was rapidly overjoyed. Not only was i offered an opportunity to become an interpreter, but the offer was to work at…Forillon National Park. I still have goosebumps when I think about it. Fifteen years later, my childhood dream came true.
I spent the following two summers rediscovering this amazing place and sharing my love for it with thousands of visitors. It was amazing to witness that, 15 years later, the place was still as inspiring as it was for me when I was a child.
Searching for critters (Photo by François Duclos/NCC staff)
Fast forward to 2019. It was my turn to bring my own children to this cherished place. They were 10 and 12 years old. To my surprise — or maybe not — I totally recognized myself in them. They spent countless hours exploring the tidal pools; they just couldn’t get enough of them. And there I was, being an interpreter again, sharing the stories of Forillon with them, and passing on my love of nature to another generation. At their persistent request, we returned for a second time in 2020. At the end of that second trip, they asked me: “Do you think we could work here one day?”
What really struck me when returning to Forillon in 2019 and 2020 is that not only was the place as pristine as I remember it, but some ecosystem features had since been restored. The love of this place from generations of people is paying off. Loving nature is the key to conserving it.
Today is Canada’s Parks Day; a day that is dedicated to celebrating our collective success in conservation. In honour of today, I invite you to join me in doing three things:
- Spend time in nature.
- Reflect on what it means to love and respect nature.
- Pass on the love of nature to someone else.
Seeing those you inspire become ambassadors for nature is the most rewarding feeling ever.
This feeling is indeed what I wish we can all experience for Canada’s Parks Day!