Tribune Staff Writer
Floating past mountains, forests and bridges, Horsefly’s Marin Patenaude and seven other participants have been adventuring down the Fraser River as part of this year’s Sustainable Living Leadership Program.
Last Monday, Aug. 12, the group stopped their rafts under Sheep Creek Bridge for a Fisheries and Oceans Canada juvenile fish net demonstration and fisheries discussion before heading into Williams Lake to visit the Potato House and Scout Island.
“I have a lot of fervour for environmental stewardship right now,” said Patenaude. “I really found another passion in wanting to protect our backyard.”
The Sustainable Living Leadership program seeks to help the participants learn about stewardship, watersheds, salmon and sustainability, during a month long trip canoeing, rafting, hiking and bussing 1,375 km from the headwaters of the Fraser River down to its mouth in Vancouver.
On Monday, the group was 12 days into the trip and had just switched from paddling down the Fraser to rafts.
“Past halfway, it starts to feel like water going down a funnel,” said Fin Donnelly who swam the Fraser in 1995 and founder of the Rivershed Society that puts on the voyage.
During the trip participants also work on developing their own unique sustainability projects.
“This is an excellent group. Every year the group is different and that is what makes the program,” Donnelly said.
Patenaude plans to create a compilation CD of artists around the province singing songs about the Fraser and its watershed.
Proceeds from the CD will go to the Potato House, she says.
The Potato House itself was once a project taken on by a participant of the program, Mary Forbes.
“They are all doing exciting projects,” said Donnelly.
Some of the other projects include implementing a food composting program at a church, establishing a community garden at a school and a relay swim of the Fraser River set for 2015 commemorating Donnelly’s swim.
The trip so far has been “absolutely inspiring” for Patenaude.
“Everyone is extremely compassionate but individual at the same time,” said Patenaude. “Everyone is extremely diverse too. I appreciate the age range, it makes for an interesting pace change.”
“There’s a lot of space for vulnerability.”
Patenaude has thoroughly enjoyed the trip so far, with one of her favourite places being the headwaters of the Fraser River in the Robson Valley.
“The headwaters in general are just beautiful and entirely new Fraser country for me,” she said. “It’s cold and clean and fresh.”
Although her journey down the Fraser is not yet over, Patenaude encourages anyone to apply for the trip in the upcoming years.
“I think any person who is able to should do this trip. It’s beautiful, it’s inspirational, the leadership and the learning skills you get out of it are so complete,” she said.
“We use these skills every day but we don’t get a chance to refine them, and that’s what I feel we are doing here — refining those skills.
“If you need to refuel your passion for B.C. in general than you should do this trip.”