With up to 100 birders flocking to a single bird blitz, the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning has made the difficult decision to cancel their popular summer programming amid restrictions on gathering.
“We realized it’s really impossible to manage public safety at a time when they’re really wanting us to keep group sizes down to six or eight people,” said program director Kelly Pearce. Many things were considered when making the decision, Pearce said, chief among them the protection of the public and Hope Mountain staff.
Some of the events planned for this summer included birding gatherings, traditional plant walks, a backcountry cooking workshop, a women’s beginner backpacking trip and a bike ride of the Kettle Valley Railway. Programs such as the bird blitz attract upwards of 70 to 100 participants. “It’s hard to redesign a program like that and maintain social distance,” Pearce said.
Volunteer events have anywhere from a dozen to 20 people show up, Pearce said, and the first thing that’s often done is signing a waiver. “So even signing a waiver and sharing ballpoint pens, in the signing of the waivers, is a potential disease transmission point,” he said. “So it just becomes a bit more problematic, managing larger groups.”
While summer programming and volunteer events take a pause, the centre is still working behind the scenes on water testing, upgrading school programs and making video and social media content.
On the positive side, the group will continue with trail building and are hiring a trail crew for July and August. The four or five-person crew will follow WorkSafe guidelines – similar to guidelines developed for tree planters – Pearce said, including physically distancing while working on the trail and when they have to work closely together it will involve wearing masks.
The trail crew will do maintenance on existing trails as well as focusing a lot of their energy on building a new trail in the Silver Creek area.
The centre will look at fall programming later in the summer, to decide how to approach school programs and other programs offered in the fall and winter months.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you all to get outdoors safely in the coming months and follow provincial guidance on safe health practice and responsible recreation,” the Hope Mountain Centre team stated.