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10 Rockies Causes You Should Care About

10 ROCKIES CAUSES
YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT

by Tera Swanson

From groomed trails to community gardens, bolted routes to hiking boots, there are plenty of ways to get involved with your local mountain town. Volunteering allows us to give back, and grow roots in our communities. Tera Swanson rounds up ten causes that have done a fine job of laying the groundwork.


1/ East Kootenay Climbing Association

Who they are:

Coming from the Kimberley and Cranbrook area, EKCA was formally put together nearly two years ago in order to create an association that advocates for the safe, sustainable and ethical development of climbing areas in the East Kootenays.

What they do:

With roughly 250 sport climbing routes at five main cragging areas, EKCA is working to develop access trails, register cragging areas as recognized recreation areas by the B.C. Government, and is working towards a bolt fund similar to TABVAR.

Their 2017 project, funded by an Access and Activities Grant by MEC, is to address and replace 50 high use and worn out anchors. Thanks to funding and a hardware donation, they will replace and upgrade nearly $3,000 of hardware at area crags!

→ Find out more about Easy Kootenay Climbing Association

2/ Banff Food Rescue

Who they are:

This initiative came from the research and determination of Banff local Alanna Pettigrew, who runs the operation from her home. After working in the grocery industry herself over the years and witnessing food, such as bread that was near expiry, going to waste, she put together a solution and created the Banff Food Rescue in 2016.

What they do:

Through her hard work and the support of volunteers, food from grocery stores and suppliers that is at or before expiry (but still safe to consume), is collected, organized, and redistributed to the Bow Valley community. Food collections on average include three banana boxes of produce and 60 loaves of bread, and donations go towards supporting the initiative itself.

→ Find out more about Banff Food Rescue.

3/ Revelstoke Local Food Initiative

Who they are:

This initiative’s first seeds were sown as a committee with the North Columbia Environmental Society (another great organization in the Revelstoke community!), in overseeing Revelstoke’s Downtown Community Garden and Garden Guru Series. As interest grew, the time came to set their own roots and become an independent society in 2015.

LFI’s main focus centres on fostering food security and local food systems, and empowering their community to grow their own food – thereby nurturing economy, health, land and culture.

What they do:

This well-developed initiative covers all the bases and still strives for more. Their community events range from Film Fest Series’ to seed swaps to sauerkraut workshops, a community garden complete with a mini fruit orchard, and a ton of resources and educational opportunities, including several stand-out youth programs! They protect their local wildlife, too: the Gleaning and Canning program removes fruit from local trees to reduce the bear-human conflicts in town (which also means yummy preserves!).

→ Find out more about Revelstoke Local Food Initiative.

4/ Columbia Valley Cycling Society

Who they are:

The Columbia Valley Cycling Society’s board and members cover several areas of biking expertise, from mapping to engineering to event planning, all made possible by volunteers, funding, grants and donations.

What they do:

Beginning in 2006, the CVCS does everything from paperwork to on-the-ground work in getting the Columbia Valley’s cycling trails accessible and in tip-top shape, to the standards of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), which they are a part of. Given the range in terrain and trail networks they manage, this is quite the undertaking. But this doesn’t deter the CVCS – they are currently looking at taking on the Barbour Rock Recreational Trails too! This is a multi-use area that hosts riding, hiking and climbing opportunities.

→ Find out more about Columbia Valley Cycling Society.

5/ Jasper Artists Guild

Who they are:

With this organization calling the beautiful Jasper Art Gallery home, you wouldn’t expect its beginnings to have started from the walls of local restaurants. But, that just what happened when a group of Jasper’s local artists came together in 2001.

What they do:

Anyone who’s visited the beauty of Jasper National Park can understand the inspiration artists draw from it, and visiting the Guild is one more way to share that experience. Today, the Guild’s galleries please the inquisitive eyes of locals and tourists, and promote arts events such as exhibits, workshops and entertainment in order to further promote Jasper’s cultural art scene.

→ Find out more about Jasper Artists Guild.

6/ Lake O’Hara Trails Club

Who they are:

Working hand-in-hand with Parks Canada and Lake O’Hara Lodge, the Lake O’Hara Trails Club is a non-profit organization with a long history in the area, starting in 1949 when the first trail systems were established.

What they do:

The Lake O’Hara area is a long-time, year-round favourite for many hikers, which is why the work of this non-profit is so important. The LOTC preserves, improves, and maintains the network of trails enjoyed by so many in Lake O’Hara’s pristine and fragile landscapes. If you have the opportunity to spend the night at Elizabeth Parker Hut or the Lake O’Hara Campground, check out the Lake O’Hara Speaker Series, an educational program running throughout the summer by the LOTC.

→ Find out more about Lake O’Hara Trails Club.

7/ Fernie Trails Alliance

Who they are:

This alliance brings together four clubs in the Fernie area that rely on accessible mountain trail systems, from touring to nordic skiing to mountain biking. In 2016 alone, the Fernie Mountain Bike Club, Fernie Trails and Ski Touring Club, Fernie Nordic Society, Island Lake Lodge, and volunteers logged 3,917 hours in improving trails!

What they do:

Working together with government, private landowners, and the community, the Fernie Trails Alliance addresses land use issues and develops high-quality trail systems and infrastructure through the dedication of volunteers. From the Lazy Lizard trail, a multi use and multi level trail up to Island Lake Lodge, to the Elk Valley Community Trail which links the communities of Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford with the Trans Canada Trail (they’re hoping to complete it this year!), their projects bring the local community that much closer to enjoying mountain trails from two wheels.

→ Find out more about Fernie Trails Alliance.

8/ Take Me Outside

Who they are:

This Banff-based non-profit organization started with a cross-country run (literally!) from St. Johns, NL, to Victoria, B.C. by Take Me Outside’s Executive Director, Colin Harris. 7,600 km later, Take Me Outside was founded, and now works collaboratively with other organizations, school boards and individuals, all working together to encourage more time spent outside with Canada’s youth.

What they do:

From video contests inspiring kids to get creative with their time in nature, to outdoor challenges where kids pledge how much time they’ll spend outside, Take Me Outside is committed to educating and creating awareness with Canadians about our connection with nature and our time spent outside. Their most recent project? A short film called “Take Me Tobogganing” to get kids hyped up for winter, a time where it’s even easier to stay inside the comforts of home. You might just see it featured at the Banff Mountain Film Festival!

→ Find out more about Take Me Outside.

9/ Parks Canada Volunteer Program

Who they are:

The Parks Canada Volunteer Program began in 2007 as the Banff EcoIntegrity Project, engaging local volunteers to become Park Ambassadors and Citizen Scientists by submitting trail reports, assisting with research and monitoring, improving trails and much more. Ten years later, the program has grown to 1,200 volunteers.

What they do:

Recent projects with the Parks Canada Volunteer Program have included work with grizzly bear research, pika surveys and bison reintroduction. To celebrate Canada’s 150th this year, the volunteer program is expanding to involve more people in stewardship activities. “BioBlitz” is one of these interactive programs running in Banff National Park. Participants survey wetlands to learn more about species at risk and contribute to an ecological monitoring project.

→ Find out more about Parks Canada Volunteer Program.

10/ Friends of Jasper National Park

Who they are:

Friends of Jasper National Park is a non-profit organization and registered Canadian charity, whose members and volunteers act as stewards and advocates of their national park. Friends of JNP encompasses several programs and projects, such as MAPS Birding Banding and the Jasper Trails Alliance.

What they do:

This organization has a lot on its plate! Its main goal is to provide opportunities for others to connect with Jasper National Park in a meaningful way, while educating about the environmental preservation and cultural heritage of the park. A number of their programs are hiking-focused, be it ‘High Five Trail Days,’ where you learn and work on Jasper’s trail systems hands-on, to Hiking Clubs and Full Moon Hikes. Youth programs include ‘(Don’t Get) Lost in the Woods’ an outdoor survival skills program, and the ‘Early Birds Birdwatching’ program will pique the interests of all ages.

→ Find out more about Friends of Jasper National Park.


Tera Swanson is a freelance writer and graduate from Mount Royal University’s Journalism undergraduate program. Whether laced into hiking boots or clipped into skis, her favourite way to explore the mountains is onherowntwofeet. She’s always up for anything that will end in the telling of a good story; be it through photography, from pen to paper, or over a locally brewed amber ale.