In his landmark book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv wrote: “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health…”
Throughout his book, Louv presents undeniable evidence about the healing power of nature for kids. An epidemic of Nature-Deficit Disorder is making too many kids sick, he says, both mentally and physically.
So today I want to write about a true, nature-healing success story going on right here, in the Lower Mainland.
On Victoria Day, I took a walk on the beautiful perimeter trail at North Vancouver’s Rice Lake. This is where the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has developed one of its most popular venues for a brilliant initiative called Fishing in the City.
The group has stocked a number of Vancouver-area lakes, including Hastings Pond in East Vancouver, with eating-sized trout. They’ve built docks and access points and washrooms, turning the lakes into convenient and inviting places for families to gather and fish. I guess their thinking was, “Build it, and they will come…and cast their lines.”
As you can see, the idea was a hit. At Rice Lake, I found a lot of kids out fishing with their parents. And kids just fishing on their own, building some independence.
But the triumph here is more than kids fishing. I talked with moms and dads who truly understood the importance of getting their kids outside, in a wild environment, away from tablets and televisions and computer screens.
Yep, these kids were having a blast, simply being kids in a wild setting. They were getting dirty and wet. They were studying plants and poking at beetles. They were stacking sticks and throwing rocks. There were playing hide and seek in the trees; I could hear them counting out loud. Oh yeah, and they were catching fish, smiling and shrieking as they reeled them in.
There were “oohs” and “wows” when a bald eagle swooped down and plucked one of those BC Fisheries trout from the surface. “He’s been hanging out in that tree,” said a little girl, pointing across the lake. I suspect Fishing in the City is helping this bird raise a family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not all about catching fish. It’s also about seeing other creatures catch a fish.
There were two fathers collecting litter with their kids. “I want them to learn respect for places like this,” said one of the fathers. Another was showing his son how to clean a fish.
Rice Lake draws world-weary grown-ups, too. There were plenty of adults fishing and having a ball.
There were picnics, too. There were parents in lawn chairs reading books. Exhausted fathers napped on blankets. There were lovers, young and old, walking the trail holding hands. There were serious runners, some pushing strollers. There were leisurely walkers. There were two muscle-bound, tattooed guys who looked like gangsters, just walking and talking and laughing. They smiled and said hello.
Brilliant initiatives like Fishing in the City, getting us into the wild, can bring out the best in all of us.
To get to Rice Lake, follow Lillooet Road in North Vancouver for about five kilometers to the parking lot by the GVRD water treatment plant. The trail to Rice Lake, a very easy ten-minute walk, is marked well from there.
The trout at Rice Lake will bite on most well-known baits like worms, Power Bait and salmon eggs. On Monday, anglers were having success on small spinners and flies, too. You’ll probably have your best luck on cloudy days with a light wind; the fish aren’t as skittish with the bright light off the water and a bit of chop on the surface.