Three Cariboo Chilcotin residents are packing their bags and getting ready to ride the Fraser River from the place where it begins, north of McBride, to Jericho Beach in Vancouver — a journey that covers 1,400 kilometres and takes 25 days. Simran Lehal and Oliver Berger from Williams Lake and Candice Ford of Tatlayoko Lake are part of a team taking part in this exciting project with the Rivershed Society of B.C.
Mary Forbes, founder of the Potato House Sustainable Community Society and educator with the Conservation Society and Scout Island Nature Centre, did the journey five years ago. “You get out every day to visit farms and communities, meeting friends of the BC Rivershed Society along the way,” she explained. “At the Goat River Wilderness area you do an overland hike in an ancient cedar forest and end up at Bowron Lakes.
“It was really amazing to me — especially that you can travel the whole thing. It’s one of the last great rivers of the world that isn’t dammed. It also surprised me how incredibly clean the river is. From just past Soda Creek down to the Sheep Creek Bridge, you actually get in the water in a life jacket and float down the river.”
The Rivershed Society of BC (RSBC) is marking 20 years as a non-profit organization committed to improving the health of BC’s longest river, the Fraser, delivering public education programs, community initiatives and building stewardship capacity in the Fraser River Basin.
Forbes explained that the purpose of the trip is to raise awareness and collect data.
“The journey targets young leaders so they can connect with each other and also with the people they talk to along the river, and they also do wildlife surveys and keeping track of invasive plants,” she said.
Potato House is a sponsor of the project, and is sending Oliver this year, something he said he deeply appreciates. “I’m super stoked to meet people like Candice and others on the trip and pick up ideas from other communities. You always gotta think globally and act locally,” he stated. “I can’t go to Europe and save the world over there; I have to start here.”
Candice Ford said that in some ways she is representing her family on the trip. “My great-great grandfather arrived more than 120 years ago on the east coast of the U.S,” she noted. “He came up to B.C. in the gold rush era and of course followed the Fraser all the way up to Bowron Lakes and Barkerville. They used to take the Goat River Trail, and in fact, when he and his brother signed up to serve in World War I, they took that trail to go catch the train to register. It is really precious to my heart to be doing this.”
Ford worked for five years on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for Environment Minister David Anderson as his conservation advisor, and now works in conservation and counselling.
She said that a focus for her on this trip is how to take the protection of the Fraser to the next level.
“Given the experience I had in conservation issues in my former career, as well as my passion for bringing the health and wellness piece in, how do we look at what is and isn’t happening in terms of protection of the Fraser and link in everybody to take it to the next level: ranchers, First Nations, industry, individual communities and environmentalists,” she added. “I’ll be talking to a lot of folks along the way about that, forming a strategy about where to go next.”