Written by Pamela Roth
With rakes, saws, loppers, shovels and a heavy Pulaski axe in hand, six student rangers head out onto a trail at Cultus Lake, ready to take on whatever lies ahead.
They are led by seasoned BC Parks ranger Dylan Eyers, who works as a section head for the Lower Mainland. Eyers has experienced a lot during the 20 years he has spent protecting and keeping the province’s parks pristine. Now he is passing on his knowledge to the group of six, who are among 48 young adults selected to work as student rangers throughout the province this summer.
“The biggest thing that damages trails is water run off,” says Eyers, who stops to point out a small section of the well-maintained trail that could use some help with drainage. Around the corner, small bushes are starting to take over the trail, prompting one student to pull out the loppers and start chopping branches.
“Just clear back as far as you can. If you can reach it from the trail, you can clear it,” says Eyers, noting potential hazards to look for when doing trail maintenance. “Some of the hardest days I’ve worked have been on trails.”
Eager to learn new skills to feed their passion for the outdoors, the group will spend the next two months together, working in parks throughout the North Vancouver region. Guided by a crew lead, the student rangers will educate campers and hikers about safe practices in the great outdoors, maintain trails and cabins, and upgrade facilities when necessary. They are one of eight teams slated to work in five regions – Prince George, Smithers, Kamloops, Victoria (Goldstream Provincial Park), Black Creek, Manning Park, North Vancouver and Squamish. Burnaby resident Ryan Walters can’t wait to get started.
“I’ve lived in the city my whole life so I love getting away and having space to roam around and clear my head. There’s just something about nature I can’t put my finger on,” said the 23-year-old, who’s currently studying psychology at UBC. “I haven’t had much time in school to learn about the environment so it’s a good opportunity to get some experience and see if it’s a career that might appeal to me.”
Launched in April, the Student Ranger Program is the first program established with proceeds generated from the sales of BC Parks specialty licence plates. Student rangers will focus on a variety of projects such as ecosystem restoration, invasive species control, trail building and maintenance, conservation monitoring, Indigenous relations and outdoor education. The goal is to provide them with skills and knowledge that can be applied towards future employment in the fields of conservation, recreation and community engagement.
After five days of training that included field and classroom components, 21-year-old Isabelle Bourque feels ready to put on her uniform and step into her new role as a BC Parks student ranger.
“I love being outdoors and I really want to promote the outdoors to other people so they know what’s available to them,” said Bourque, who drove nine hours with her Prince George crew to attend training. “It’s been an amazing week. I love the fact we’re around people who are like-minded. They all want to be outdoors, improving our parks.”
The BC Parks Student Ranger Program is offered to young adults, ages 18 to 30, from May to August. Eligible candidates must be enrolled in full-time studies in the past academic year with the intention of returning to full-time studies in the fall. More than 30% of the 2018 student rangers come from Indigenous backgrounds.