There is a myriad of physical, emotional, and intellectual benefits to be gained from time spent outdoors. Children, like the rest of us, need access to natural green spaces and time to discover the world around them. What better way to spark an appreciation for nature and pursue an active lifestyle, than venturing with the family into a Regional Park near you!
Regional Parks Services offers many park programs for school groups and community groups of all ages. Maybe your child has already visited a Regional Park with their class on a field trip, or perhaps their teacher has such an outing planned for the school year. Programs in Regional Parks include Pond Study, Owls of the Okanagan, Bees and Pollinators, Bats, Bears and Trees of the Okanagan. Each program is designed to get students outdoors with a Regional Park Interpreter so they can learn firsthand about specific aspects of park ecology. Often, simply being outside in the fresh air in a natural setting is the highlight of the program! Inquire about the outdoor learning opportunities planned for your child’s class this year.
Time outdoors does not need to be scheduled or planned – gather the family and head outdoors to explore your nearest Regional Park or green space! Kokanee salmon spawning season presents a great occasion for a family outing – from late August to early October landlocked Kokanee salmon from Okanagan Lake swim upstream to lay their eggs in stream rock beds. Your family can experience this phenomenon by visiting two prime spawning viewing locations: the spawning channel at Mission Creek Regional Park, at Springfield and Durnin Roads in Kelowna, or along Deep Creek in Hardy Falls Regional Park off Hardy Road in Peachland.
All Regional Parks offer trail systems for self-guided hikes and walks. Every twist and turn of a park trail offers new opportunities for young and old to discover local flora and fauna. Visit the EECO (Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan) at 2363A Springfield Road in Kelowna for more information on park trails and pick up a Parks Program Guide. Popular programs include the Discover Regional Parks hiking program which takes participants into different parks each outing, birding programs, animal tracking, bug safaris, butterfly bioblitzes in early summer, after hours programs on nocturnal animals and the night sky, reptile programs, syilx programming in partnership with knowledge keepers, art in the park, the Roll and Stroll parent and tot walking program, story time and much more. Check out all these programs and more by browsing the Parks Program Guide, which is also available on the Regional District website, www.rdco.com/parksguide. The EECO is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00am-3:00pm. While there, sign out a Discovery Backpack and explore nearby Mission Creek Regional Park. Discovery Backpacks come in a variety of themes, including geology, Kokanee salmon and pond study.
And never underestimate the importance of unstructured free play as a way for children to learn about nature. Encourage them to explore, get dirty and create their own games and activities in the great outdoors! Explore trails on a self-guided hike in one of 30 Regional Parks. Access park and trail information online at www.rdco.com/parks.
Keep in mind that the winter months present a veritable wonderland of walks and outdoor activities for the young and young at heart, so bundle up and discover a favourite new park or trail this season. Regional Parks Services manages over 2,100 hectares of public parkland in the Central Okanagan and there are countless trails waiting to be enjoyed! Winter is a fantastic time to hike a trail and view the outdoors with fresh eyes- plus, animal tracks are fun to watch out for in freshly fallen snow!
The Mission Creek Greenway is a perennial favourite and with good reason. Over 16 kilometers of trail follow Mission Creek from Lakeshore Road up to Scenic Canyon Regional Park with trail grades ranging from easy to difficult. A walk along the Greenway is a pleasure in any season, and particularly in the winter months when you are treated to a landscape of snow-laden trees and snowberries. The Greenway passes through Mission Creek Regional Park which offers a network of trails that lead up into the hills by Hall Road. Who knows, maybe you will see some feathered friends or even a deer foraging for food. Keep an eye out for winter events such as Winter Magic at Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park in December and Family Day fun in February at Kaloya Regional Park in Lake Country.
When in West Kelowna be sure to walk Goats Peak, Glen Canyon, Gellatly Nut Farm, or Shannon Lake Regional Parks to name just a few. In Peachland, Hardy Falls Regional Park is an easy walk along Deep Creek to the falls viewing platform at the head of the trail. Check a copy of the Regional Parks guide for dog accessible parks and parks with limited winter access. Dogs on-leash are permitted in most Regional Parks, and Kalamoir Regional Park in West Kelowna has two off-leash dog beaches to enjoy!
Looking ahead into spring and beyond, Regional Parks Services offers guided walks, hikes and other public programs year-round to help residents and visitors discover, enjoy and celebrate our special Okanagan sense of place. For more information on events and programs in a regional park near you visit www.rdco.com/parks and follow us on Instagram @regionalparks. See you out there!