5 ways to make every day Earth Day in Ontario

Visiting your nearest provincial park is a start

As people around the world prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, Ontarians have everything they need right in their own backyard. With more than 330 provincial parks covering 8.2 million hectares of parkland, Ontario is a veritable playground for all things fun and environmental.

Here are five ways you can enjoy the spirit of Earth Day in April and throughout the year:

Learn to camp

Never pitched a tent or built a campfire? Never heard the call of a Loon or tasted the gooey sweetness of a Smore under the stars? Then you are in for a treat if you sign up for Ontario Parks’ award-winning Learn to Camp program.

Named Innovator of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario in 2013, Learn to Camp teaches newbies how to pitch a tent, build a campfire safely and cook on a camp stove. Have no fear because park staff members are with you through the whole thing, even staying overnight.

All camping and cooking equipment is provided. All you have to do is bring your own food and bedding (for Smores, bring marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers). Book early. You may find yourself coming back to your favourite park throughout the year to practice what you learn. Reservations can be made starting May 4, 2015.  www.ontarioparks.com/learntocamp

Learn to fish

Ever had a fish fry over an open fire after a day on your favourite lake? If the answer is yes, you know how absolutely delicious it can be. If the answer is no and your mouth is watering, you might want to sign up for Ontario’s Learn to Fish program.

Just like the Learn to Camp program, Learn to Fish teaches new anglers everything they need to know about fishing in Ontario waters.

The program teaches you how to catch fish safely and sustainably, how to rig, bait and cast a rod and where to get a license among other things.

The program is offered at the following parks and is also included in the Learn to Camp program:

Ask about ice fishing too. A fish fry in a fishing hut is a whole other kind of delicious. www.ontario.ca/travel-and-recreation/learn-fish

Commune with nature

Science has proven that humans really do feel better being outside, especially children. In fact, 98 percent of visitors to Ontario Parks say visiting a park gives them significant stress relief.

Spending time with nature at Ontario Parks connects children and adults with some of the most pristine, undisturbed landscape in the world and helps teach us why conservation is so important.

Every year, tens of thousands of visitors camp, fish, swim, walk, hike, paddle and experience Ontario Parks first-hand, including participating in Natural Heritage Education programs. These fun, entertaining, hands-on activities led by knowledgeable park staff will introduce you and your kids to Ontario’s natural world, one that is home to 81 species of mammals, 483 bird species, 26 species of amphibians, 27 reptile species and 154 freshwater fish species.

Over 40 provincial parks feature offer free NHE activities every summer to park permit holders.  Plan your trip by visiting the Ontario Parks website at www.ontarioparks.com or by downloading the 2015 Ontario Parks Visitors’ Guide www.ontarioparks.com/parksguide. 29 provincial parks are open year-round as well.

Rent a cabin or yurt or…

Yurts, cabins, rustic cabins, heritage houses, cottages and even lodges can be rented at Ontario Parks year-round.

Ontario Parks has teamed up with carpentry programs at several community colleges over the past few years to build gorgeous log yurts and heated cabins at select parks.

Arrowhead Provincial Park near Huntsville added four new cabins and yurts late two years ago. Murphys Point Provincial Park in Eastern Ontario and The Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron, have new yurts and cabins. New accommodations are planned for more parks in 2015.

For a complete list of what’s available to book this summer, visit the Roofed Accommodation section on the Ontario Parks web site www.ontarioparks.com/roofedaccommodation. Some cabins have electricity and gas BBQs as well, which is great for winter visits as well.

Become an eco-ambassador

Whether it’s on Earth Day or throughout the year, we all have a responsibility to care for the environment and do whatever they can to create a sustainable future for future generations.

By visiting a provincial park, you can see and experience Ontario’s conservation efforts and learn more about how you can play a part in this vital effort. Plus, you’ll be having such a wonderful time, it won’t even feel like you’re learning!

Visit www.ontarioparks.com for everything you need to know to plan your next trip and enjoy the clean fresh air and quiet solitude of this precious resource.