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Bonnechere hosts soggy Healthy Parks, Healthy People Day

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

Ryan Paulsen / Daily Observer
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Bonnechere Park employees Nathan Mask, backgroun, and Tyler Lawson play a game of beach volleyball despite a sudden downpour on Friday afternoon, July 15. Programs held earlier in the day were well attended,but the storm drove away crowds gathered at the park for the second annual Healthy Parks, Health People day, which offers free park admission to the general public to encourage more outdoor activity.

Ryan Paulsen / Daily Observer
Bonnechere Park employees Nathan Mask, backgroun, and Tyler Lawson play a game of beach volleyball despite a sudden downpour on Friday afternoon, July 15. Programs held earlier in the day were well attended,but the storm drove away crowds gathered at the park for the second annual Healthy Parks, Health People day, which offers free park admission to the general public to encourage more outdoor activity.

Despite the day taking a decidedly soggy turn with an afternoon downpour, the second annual Health Parks, Healthy People Day hosted by Ontario Parks on Friday, July 15 at Bonnechere Provincial Park is being considered a success.

"We had yoga on the beach this morning," said natural heritage education leader MacKenzie Schmidt on Friday afternoon, "and it was beautiful. The sun was shining, we had the waves lapping on the beach and birds flying, so it was nice. Then we had a small games tournament this morning, which was a huge success as well."

All across Ontario, provincial parks were welcoming visitors in for a full day of planned activities, while waiving the standard entry fees.

"The whole idea behind HPHP day was to cut down the barriers of cost and let everyone in for a day," explains Schmidt. "People aren't going to experience the park if they feel there are barriers in the way, so it's a way to get more people involved and maybe get them hooked on parks."

While at just two years old, the program is still a bit too new to make any real pronouncements of its overall impact on park visits, Schmidt says that there was definitely some buzz around the day as it approached this time around.

"It's starting to become more popular. Last year was a pilot program, so we had a decent turnout, but this season we had people asking about it earlier and when it was coming up, so it's starting to catch on. It's a slow process, but I think Ontario Parks is going to keep it up for a time."

For the last few years, officials in various sectors have been promoting the idea of more outdoor physical activity, and Schmidt notes that there have been a variety of studies done that link positive outdoor experiences with greater environmental awareness and better stewardship.

Ontario's provincial parks system, she says, offers a perfect balance of well-kept, fully staffed facilities and an untouched natural playground.

"We have months and months of work that goes into prepping this place before people show up. So we have the dollars put in and the work put in to keep it prepped. Then we have what I do, so every day at least once a day there's an hour-long educational program that's also fun and it's free, so families can come and do that."

For more information about HPHP Day, visit https://www.ontarioparks.com/hphp.

rpaulsen@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/PRyanPaulsen