The program is called “Becoming and Outdoors Woman” and focuses on outdoor survival techniques and becoming involved with the environment.
It’s basically a winter survival course where participants learn how to identify animal tracks, how to pick a campsite, how to start a fire and different survival skills as well as snowshoeing and archery.
“It’s a program that’s offered all across North America and it’s offered through Fish and Wildlife here on P.E.I.,” said Dale Cameron of the Trout River Watershed Group. “They do two workshops a year and we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with them and do a couple of them up here. It’s the first winter one that we’ve done.”
Cameron said from the watershed group’s perspective they are always looking for environmental angles.
“Our main mandate is both in-stream and upland habitat protection and enhancement but we’re also getting more involved in the community and trying to get people involved in the environment as well,” he said. “We’re trying to branch out and get the community in different programs and get them out in nature.”
Alison Griffin, from the Western Region Sports and Recreation Council, said one of the benefits of the program is getting women active during the winter months.
“Dale has groomed a hiking trail here. It’s four kilometres one way. He’s groomed it for snowshoeing this year, so it’s open for snowshoeing seven days a week and the cabin is open five days a week for people to come and use the snowshoes for free anytime,” said Griffin. “We’re just trying to help promote it so that people know it’s here. I don’t think the hiking trail has been used to its capacity and not in the winter, especially. As far as this program goes, it’s just another way for us to show people that they can be active in the winter.
“You don’t have to be cooped up inside. You can get out and enjoy it, be active and do things. That‘s what interested us in partnering with this program.”
Tracy MacDonald from the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Fish and Wildlife Division said the workshops are usually offered twice a year.
“They’ve been usually just a day work but we’ve had overnight workshops as well,” said MacDonald. “We try to offer one in the fall and one in the spring and they’re based around mainly hunting and fishing activities for women to get women with other like-minded women to take part in the activities.”
The response to the program has been strong. Organizers have had to limit the number of participants they can accept.
“We have 25 registered for today (Saturday),” MacDonald said. “It‘s hard to handle anymore than that. The first workshop I had, I had over 50 women back in 2008.”
Griffin said they could have accepted more registrations for Saturday’s workshop but had to put a cap on the number of participants.
“There is definitely a want and an interest for it.”
One of those taking part in workshop was Ginger Cole.
“I really enjoy this program,” she said. “It’s very empowering for women to experience things they may not do in their everyday life. It gets people out to do some activity, enjoying the day, meeting new people, building networks.”
Cole said the program is well organized and affordable.
“Quite often there is a learning aspect to it,” she said. “Today were learning reading maps, using compasses, so it may not be something the average woman is doing in her every day work life or home life. We’re also going to learn about archery. We have people who come and volunteer their time and instruct us an teach us and we get the physical activity element with it as well.”