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Outdoor education needed in B.C. as more people head outside during pandemic

Last Updated Aug 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm PDT

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Summary

B.C. has to do more to protect people new to heading outdoors and exploring B.C. during the pandemic, says expert

Dr. Iain Stewart-Patterson says more outdoor training information needs to be available

SAR teams in B.C. saw a spike in calls in July despite less international tourism

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province’s push to get British Columbians exploring the great outdoors during the pandemic without teaching them how is leading to people getting in trouble on trails and in the backcountry, according to an expert.

Dr. Iain Stewart-Patterson, a world-renowned hiking guide and adventure studies professor at Thompson Rivers University, says education needs to be part of the explore B.C. campaign.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he says.

Stewart-Patterson studied how people assess risk outdoors and says it’s easy for some to overestimate their abilities and find themselves in situations beyond their control.

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“We think, ‘Oh yeah let’s go for a hike in the wilderness. We haven’t done that before, but it should be fine,’ and we think we are going to be ok. We see this effect coming out, not just in beginners, but also people who have intermediate, or advanced, or expert-level skills.”

B.C. search and rescue teams saw more than a 50 per cent increase in calls last month compared to the year before despite a lack of international tourism.

COVID-19 restrictions added to the mix might have contributed to a feeling of pent-up energy and a drive to get outdoors, Stewart-Patterson says.

“We’re dealing with COVID and trying to manage that as a responsible human being and reducing social interactions,” he says.

So Stewart-Patterson thinks there should be an outdoor safety campaign matching the province’s message to explore. He says there should be information around what’s available, including hiking guides in the area for hire.

“The risk component is only one part of potentially doing it poorly with potentially fatal consequences too. But the other part that needs to be in the messaging and needs to be talked about is the environmental impact. Walking softly in the wilderness is incredibly important,” he adds.

Stewart-Patterson also says more online instruction on how to adventure safely is needed.

He recommends researching the potential hazards of an area before hitting any trails.