Three years ago, Erika Backmeyer was looking for something for her kids to be able to attend and decided to attend a meeting in Grande Prairie about restarting the Grande Prairie’s Junior Forest Warden club. Unfortunately, Erika was the only one who showed up, so she decided to avoid the inconvenient driving that a Grande Prairie club would entail. She decided to begin her own club in Bezanson. She says, “I was a tree-planter for many years, so the forestry part resonated with me, plus the camping and hiking. It seemed like really great stuff to do with kids and other families!” And so, the Bezanson Brown Bears Junior Forest Wardens began.
Currently, both of Erika’s children are involved in the Junior Forest Wardens. Her grandfather was also a leader, and her father and uncle were both wardens. It seems fitting that Erika started this club in Bezanson!
Erika says that the best part of the program is that, “It is a parented program (no drop-offs), so we all participate and learn together.” She also says that she enjoys, “getting outside together as families and helping the kids learn new skills and gain confidence also.”
What are the key goals in the Junior Forest Wardens?
This program is based on 4 pillars which include Ecology, Forestry, Woods Travel (camping/survival) and Leadership. “We learn about the forest. Its value in our lives add a useful resource and how to keep it healthy. We learn how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and how to handle emergency events,” Erika says.
What kinds of activities are involved?
They have currently done fire-starting, papermaking, fire tower tours, knife skills, First Aid, Adventure Smart training, snowshoeing, birdwatching and many other great activities! Plus, the wardens and their families are able to go to regional and provincial camps throughout the year! They also do volunteer activities such as cleaning up the Legion every spring and doing the roadside clean-ups (this one is more of a fundraiser though).
Who is all involved in this program?
Since it is a family-oriented program, parents or guardians must accompany the wardens to meetings and outings. Currently, there are two age groups, Pathfinders and Trailblazers, as well as Wanderers.
Wanderers: Under 6 years old who are welcome at most events
Pathfinders: 6-8 years old (currently have)
Trailblazers: 9-11 years old (currently have)
Adventurers: 12-14 years old (do not have currently)
Challengers: 15-18 years old (do not have currently)
Begins in September and runs until June with optional summer events. Individuals can also apply all year round, but it is best to join in September. Meetings are held twice a month, once at the Legion Hut in Bezanson and the other is a to be determined outside outing!
The cost is $65 per warden per year with additional costs such as uniform fees and optional camps.
Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to learn and spend time with your families, and the families in the community! For more information please contact Erika Backmeyer at 780-518-3329. Erika is also looking for new leaders to accommodate the older age students, so anyone who is interested should contact her!
Thank you, Erika, for creating such an amazing program for these children and their families. We wish you best in your years of continuing this incredible program!
Written by Ally Pilgrim with information and photos provided by Erika Backmeyer.