A controversial topic has risen within the hiking community: to hike or not to hike?
Our local National Park in Manitoba, Riding Mountain is closed, as are all National Parks throughout Canada. Some Provinces including Ontario and British Columbia have closed their Provincial Parks as well. Manitoba Provincial Parks are still open.
I firmly believe that Provincial Parks in Manitoba should close. As an avid hiker and backpacker, I am just as disappointed as the next person that I would not be able to continue doing something that I love.
However, that is where my entitlement stops.
Collectively, humans are greedy and take far more from the earth than we will ever give back. With less staff in parks, maintenance will not be completed on a regular basis and the land is at risk of being destroyed.
If you follow outdoors-related news, you may recall what happened last year in the United States when there was a partial government shut down. Trees in Joshua Tree National Park in California were destroyed and there are estimates that it could take centuries for them to recover from the damage. Do we want similar damage in Manitoba?
Spring is a time for regeneration and I see this as an opportunity for nature to grow without us meddling. I think we owe it to nature.
We do not need to travel far to connect with nature. On my daily morning walks with Arya and Asha this week, I have felt tree bark upon my fingertips and I have inhaled the crisp spring air into my lungs. I have watched birds soar above me and rabbits skitter on the ground.
It is of course far more exhilarating to witness nature up close in the thick of the forest, however it is far more responsible to connect with nature near our doorsteps for the time being.
A few additional thoughts to consider before venturing out to Provincial Parks are what impacts could be done to surrounding small towns. Will gas stations and service centers be needed? What about help with changing a flat tire on the side of the road or needing to call a tow-truck due to other car troubles? What impact could we have on already stressed health regions? What if we are in a car accident or injure ourselves on the trail?
I know that my opinion to close Provincial Parks in Manitoba may be unpopular and some people will vehemently disagree with me. I am OK with that and it certainly will not be the last time I have an unpopular opinion. In these very strange times, I am putting nature and resources in small communities ahead of my very strong desire to hike.
Trust me, I am laid off right now and if it were any other time, I would have already packed a week’s worth of supplies into my backpack and wandered into the woods. But not now.