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Summer camp for kids with a grassroots twist

PARENTS WELCOME The whole family can attend the Southern 
Alberta Youth Range Days and learn about rangeland health

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Summer vacation means freedom, adventure, and lifelong memories for kids, and for many, that rite of passage called summer camp.

Parents and kids seeking something different should check out Southern Alberta Youth Range Days — an annual summer camp with a distinctly Alberta twist.

“The camp started in 2008 and it was sort of the brainchild of the southern counties — Cardston, Forty Mile, Cypress and Warner — along with some staff from SRD,” said Lynn Fitzpatrick, a rangeland agrologist with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD).

“We just wanted a place where youth could interact with professionals in the resource management sector in a fun and interactive way.”

Forest ecology is a popular topic of study, but grasslands are often neglected even though their ecosystems are equally complex and often much more fragile.

“There’s 4-H and that looks after the animal side of stuff, but there’s not really any place that kids can learn about rangelands or wildlife, so we wanted to provide that opportunity,” Fitzpatrick said.

The three-day camp takes a holistic approach and shows the relationship between individual species and total rangeland health.

“We do a little bit of plant identification and we teach them about rangeland health,” said Fitzpatrick.

“Public Lands has a protocol that we use to assess rangelands so we teach them the basics of that, we do some riparian stuff as well, and we make it fun. This year we’re doing a trail ride, we often do a float down the river, and we try to incorporate some of the local stuff. So if it’s at Writing-on-Stone, we learn about the Blackfoot culture and some species at risk.”

There have been four camps so far — two at Writing-on-Stone and one each at the Cypress Hills and Police Outpost provincial parks. Participants do not need an agricultural background to attend.

“We gear it toward youth in all backgrounds” said Fitzpatrick. “The first two years it was mostly 4-H kids who came, but we’ve been doing a bit better job of advertising and now we’re getting some city people to come too, so it’s farm, ranch, acreage, town and city. The ages are 13 to 18 and we actually encourage the whole family to come. So we’re learning at all levels— if you get the kids involved, then they can teach their parents.

This year’s camp will be held July 17—19 at Rangeview Ranch in Carsdston County. The ranch sits atop the Milk River Ridge, an ideal setting for learning about rangeland health. Participants will experience a trail ride, learn about wildlife management, and float the Milk River. The cost for the camp is $50, and there are only 20 to 25 spaces. The contact is Stephen Bevans with the County of Cardston at 403-653-4977.

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