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Kettle Creek Conservation Authority
Since the nice weather is finally here we thought we would take the chance to learn a bit more about Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, and how they support people living in Elgin and Middlesex Counties to get out into nature!
Can you tell us a bit about Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, its mandate and where it is located?
Kettle Creek Conservation Authority (KCCA) is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario that are dedicated to protecting, restoring, and managing the natural environment on a watershed basis. The Kettle Creek watershed includes seven member municipalities (London, St. Thomas, Malahide, Central Elgin, Southwold, Middlesex Centre, and Thames Centre) and was established by the provincial government in 1965. KCCA works in partnership with municipal governments, schools, businesses, residents, and community organizations to deliver locally-based programs and projects. KCCA promotes an integrated watershed approach balancing human, environmental, and economic needs for best results. KCCA’s programs and services include flood monitoring and warning; natural hazard plan input review and regulations; forestry and tree planting; stewardship; environmental monitoring; outdoor education and outdoor recreation.
One way to support both mental and physical health is to get outside and enjoy nature. What are some of the opportunities that Kettle Creek Conservation Authority offers for people to enjoy nature?
KCCA owns and manages six Conservation Areas: Lake Whittaker, Dalewood, Belmont, Kirk-Cousins, Dan Patterson/Kettle Creek Dog Park and Union Pond. Day-use, overnight and seasonal camping, and swimming facilities are offered at both Dalewood and Lake Whittaker. For those who enjoy spending time on the water, both campgrounds offer watercraft rentals. Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy over 25 kilometers of natural surface recreational hiking trails at Lake Whittaker, Dalewood, Dan Patterson and Kirk-Cousins. While you explore our conservation areas, you’ll find natural gems like wetlands, beaches, streams, and forests.
Stepping into nature and exploring green spaces can boost your health and wellness. Studies show that connecting with nature reduces anxiety, improves creativity and increases focus. Every year, KCCA participates in the Healthy Hikes, an annual health and wellness initiative run by Conservation Ontario. Healthy Hikes takes place from May 6 to October 31 and participation is simple! Visit one of Ontario’s 300 Conservation Areas and share your pictures on social media with the hashtag #HealthyHikes and #StepIntoNature. Some of these green spaces even offer free admission, including KCCA’s Dan Patterson Conservation Area.
The Authority strives to provide accessible green spaces to residents in our watershed, especially those facing a nature-deficit. Data shows that 45% of Elgin County residents reported being inactive. And, there is a 14% drop in the number of Canadian kids that actually play outside after school. The Kettle Creek Environmental Trust (KCET) helps people reconnect with nature, and KCCA provides the green space to do it. Every year, several families are selected to spend a free weekend at Dalewood Conservation Area through the ReWild the Family program. They are provided all the camping gear, a campsite, and a mentor to teach them the basics of camping. Without this program, these families would not have the opportunity to get out into nature and explore our conservation areas.
Further, KCCA provides a wide range of outreach and education opportunities. Staff provide education programs in nature for school groups and summer camps and numerous events are held each year to allow the community to get involved in environmental stewardship such as tree planting or invasive species removal.
In 2018, KCCA launched the Kettle Creek Environmental Youth Corps, a program that allows high school students to connect with nature through meaningful, hands-on environmental projects in exchange for volunteer hours. In its first year, twelve students participated, spending over 170 hours outdoors.
Can you share a personal story from a visitor or staff member about the positive effects of nature on mental health and wellness?
Every year, KCCA donates weekends of camping to families taking part in the Kettle Creek Environmental Trust’s (KCET) program ReWild the Family. Through this program families who have never camped before because of social or economic reasons, are gifted a free weekend of camping from KCCA and the KCET provides a mentor and all the camping gear.
One family was not only new to camping but new to Canada. As a refugee family, they were still dealing with the trauma and devastation they had seen in their home country. So much so that the children – two boys nine and eleven years old – did not want to stay overnight. They were scared, and anxious.
However, once they arrived at the campground the boys began to relax and got lost in nature. They not only stayed overnight – they extended their camping stay. When asked about their experience and if they would go camping again the nine year old said, “The campfire was nice and I liked looking at the stars. I will tell you more if you take me fishing. Please take me fishing.”
Camping is a great low-cost/ no-cost way to spend time outdoors and reconnect as a family. It can also build confidence and greatly reduces stress and anxiety. If you would like to learn more about the ReWild the Family program visit http://kettlecreektrust.com/
Are there any special events or activities taking place over the summer for people to attend or get involved with?
KCCA’s 25 kilometres of hiking trails are open daily from dawn until dusk from May through November. Dalewood and Lake Whittaker Conservation Areas offer a full slate of activities during the summer events including learn to fish programs, wildlife presentations and canoe/kayak rentals are available daily through the campground gatehouses.
For those interested in getting involved with clubs in the area, Nature London and the Elgin Hiking Trail Club are local groups that encourage walking as a healthy lifestyle. They are always encouraging new members to join their clubs, and often plan events and social gatherings in our Conservation Areas.