A coalition to promote the outdoors in Quebec

Une coalition pour promouvoir le plein air au Québec

Photo: Olivier Zuida The Duty
Everywhere in the region, the infrastructure devoted to the outdoors, such as trails for cross-country skiing — are in great need of maintenance.

Even if the benefits of the outdoors on health are proven, little public funds are invested to promote contact with nature. The middle of the open air is a common front to push Quebec to do more to help the Quebecers to reconnect with their acres of wild territories.

Take the Quebec, shake well, he fell of acres of forests inviting, raging rivers, lakes, thousands of kilometres of shoreline, bathed by a river of legendary. All-round, see-deploy a natural environment of exceptional richness. Not a tourist brochure or a promotional video which does not draw advantage : canoe gliding on the surface spreads out to a lake, hikers in the heart of a forest ablaze with autumn, sled dogs spinning in the vastness of winter.

The outdoors is well and truly in our DNA. That one is conscious of it or not, it is the foundation of our collective history, the age of the first peoples to colonialism.

The assets of nature

The benefits of activity in nature on the health, both physical and mental, are demonstrated by multiple studies. The trend is healthy living, active transportation and reconnect with nature. The syndrome of the nature deficit and its effects on health are clearly established : the young — children and teenagers — high mainly in urban areas suffer from the negative effects of their broken link with nature. Symptoms of ADHD, depression, anxiety, overweight, concentration problems : the bill of the deficit is high.

Last February, the camp Keno, a leader for 50 years in Quebec, revealed the results of a survey carried out among parents of a child who had attended a summer camp in the open air, in the last year. About 90 % of them had noticed the impact of this experience on the behavior of their child : increase self-reliance, self-confidence and sense of responsibility. Major achievement in the construction of identity of young people.

So, how do you explain that the outdoor is not better supported by government bodies ? As the infrastructure dedicated to the open — air trails, access to water, shelter — are in great need of maintenance, everywhere in the region, without which they can present a danger to users of the territory and, even, become inaccessible in the long term. How to ensure the sustainability of these achievements when it leaves the field of play in the hands of citizens, mostly volunteers, who end up getting tired after years of involvement ?

The time to put the green

It is all about the Coalition the open air, which has just been created officially by the professionals in the field. Its mission is to ” influence the policies and laws public for the practice of outdoor activities, non-motorized “. The Coalition consists of twenty agencies and associations : federations, Aventure Écotourisme Québec, Vélo Québec, Association des camps du Québec, to name a few.

To see the initiatives that are being born everywhere in the region, the excitement around the open-air is palpable. “We are currently in a time that is conducive to its development,” says Véronique Marchand, director of operations at the Federation of educators physical educators of Quebec, a member of the coalition. The Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie has just sent a fleet of cross-country skiing in the national parks to encourage the practice. We see more and more of outdoor activities programs in the middle school, as the program on global Health, more and more teachers are turning to outdoor activities for the teaching of disciplines. “

With his Experience as a family put in place in 2015 (free access to national parks in the 17 years and under), the Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (SEPAQ) observed an increase of 46 % of the young customer base, proof that the response is good. And what of the pilot project of open-air school, inspired by the scandinavian model, which has been established in the Mauricie region two years ago ?

The outdoors should enjoy the same funding that the sport

— Patrick Daigle, a representative of the Coalition outdoor


Invest in the future

“The Alliance of the tourism industry is doing everything to sell the destination of Québec on foreign markets,” says David Lapointe, director general of the Society of development of the regional parks of Matawinie, part of the Coalition. But small towns and small players in the region do not have the means to maintain the quality of their infrastructure. The government must prove its commitment with public funds. “

Une coalition pour promouvoir le plein air au Québec

Photo: Charles Kavanagh
To see the initiatives that are being born everywhere in the region, the excitement around the open-air is palpable.

Because there is much to gain to promote the practice of open-air, and not only in the field of public health. According to the report presented last October by the Transat Chair in tourism, ESG-UQAM (Study of customers, places of practice and the economic and social benefits of physical outdoor activities), outdoor activities related to the québec economy an estimated 2.2 billion dollars a year. Not to mention that they create 30 807 full-time jobs.

“With this study, we want to encourage the government to vote in favour of the outdoors,” says Patrick Daigle, of the Department of physical activity sciences of the UQAM, and who sits on the board of directors of the Coalition. The outdoors should enjoy the same funding that sport. “An investment that, in time, give a new breath to the local professionals and which would also create indirect benefits non-negligible.

“We are right to be optimistic,” says Patrick Daigle, especially with the View on the outdoors “In Quebec, we move in the great outdoors !”, that’s just been launched by the ministry of Education and higher Education. “It is a valuable tool that demonstrates the impact of social, economic, and environmental industry. “But it is a sign of openness promising on the part of our leaders,” says Patrick Daigle.

The government will defend the cause of the open air ? The budget unveiled a few weeks ago, includes funding of $ 120 million to the attention of the SEPAQ for outdoor infrastructure, the built heritage, the Aquarium of Quebec city and, finally, the protection of river banks and the habitats of fish. A sign that we are moving in the right direction.