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Using the area's beauty

The Friends of Bonnechere Park have joined forces with several Renfrew County community and health organizations to help strengthen the bodies and minds of county young people -all by using existing nature trails.

Representatives of the group, along with partners Ontario Parks, KidActive, Omamiwinini Pimadjwowin -the Algonquin Way Cultural Centre, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, Renfrew County Stewardship Program, Renfrew County and District Health Unit, and Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township, gathered at the Petawawa Terrace provincial park to announce the launch of the Footprints in Time.

This 18-month-long project deals with creating a 'how-to' guide or template to enhancing nature trails, with the goal of raising physical activity levels, stimulating interest in natural and cultural heritage, and promoting a healthy lifestyle for residents and visitors alike.

Betty Biesenthal, Friends of Bonnechere Park director, said they have received $106,965 from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport's healthy communities fund to get this off the ground, with the support of all of their partners who are offering in-kind services and resources to make this a reality.

She said the main component of the Footprints in Time is developing a 'how-to' template which can be applied to any nature trail within the county. This will be used on a demonstration trail at Bonnechere Provincial Park on Round Lake, where workshops will be hosted over the summer and fall of 2011.

"This is not about building new, but is about working with existing trails," Ms. Biesenthal said.

This step-by-step trail design guide being developed will include tips and resources on how communities can feature their natural and cultural heritage while increasing physical activity opportunities.

It will be designed by a round table of experts from parks and recreation staff, naturalists and ecologists, historians and archeologists, health and wellness advisors and First Nations and municipal representatives.

Once done, Ms. Biesenthal said the template can be applied anywhere with community support, such as the Petawawa Terrace, Cobden Marsh and the Shaw Woods.

Jason Mask, acting park superintendent for Bonnechere Provincial Park, said this is another example of why they are so proud to be a partner with the Friends of Bonnechere Park.

"It is exciting to partner for another leading edge project, and work together over the next two years to share this dream," he said.

Brian Brohart, the Renfrew County and District Health Unit's health promoter, said this Footprints in Time project will provide increased opportunities for inexpensive and accessible physical activity options for county residents.

"By incorporating both cultural and historical interest points, the project will appeal to non-traditional trail users," he said. "The Friends of Bonnechere Park should be commended for spearheading such an innovative and rewarding project."

Shawna Babcock, KidActive director, said it is the nearby natural spaces which shape a child's relationship with nature and inspire them to choose outdoor activities.

"Opportunities to explore our local trails, paths and parks can provide every child with the foundation to be stewards of our natural spaces," she said.

"Early interaction with nearby nature sets a child up to chose activity over inactivity and outdoor play over indoor sedentary time."

Ms. Biesenthal said increasingly, school groups and independent travellers are taking part in interpretive and self-guided pro-grams at Bonnechere Park.

"Our goal is to expand the availability of enhanced outdoor experiences on trails throughout the county, for the well-being and enrichment of residents and visitors alike."

The project theme, Footprints in Time, is based on a traditional Algonquin teaching, illustrating the 12-centuries of life on Earth from the Ice Age to the present.

Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer reporter

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