Recreation out of reach

They say the key to enjoying winter is to embrace the outdoors—for many Nova Scotian families, that’s an unaffordable luxury

by Fawn Logan-Young

Picture a snowy Saturday morning. You and your family just finished breakfast. In your hands, you have that second cup of coffee you told yourself you would not have. You are brainstorming what to do with the kids today, knowing you have time and energy to spare. “Ah-ha!” you think. “Let’s do something outside.” After some fussing to get the kids into their many layers of snow gear, you pack the snowshoes, the lunches, and then you’re off. 

Could this hypothetical be a reality for you? Would you have the privilege to just pack up and go? Can you afford to buy or rent your family the appropriate outerwear and gear? Can you spare the means to provide your children their packed lunches? Do you have access to transportation, or can you pay for your gas? 

Stats tell us in 2019, 25% of Nova Scotian children were living in poverty, with little improvement over the last 30 years. To add, visible minorities are two to three times more likely to be living in families experiencing poverty. For some families in Nova Scotia, this hypothetical is out of reach.

I often repeat the expression: “there is no such thing as bad weather if you’re dressed for it.” I say this all the time but recently have considered there are some who may not be able to afford bad weather and at one point in my life, neither could I. I know from personal experience, growing up and wanting to participate in recreation is not always easy.

For me, the skating on my cousin’s pond became wanting to go skating at the arena with my friends. Tobogganing on a hill down the road turned into begging my mom to pay for a ski pass at Martock, despite knowing as a single mother that she could not afford it. The jacket we bought at Value Village did not have a name brand on it, so I did not want to wear it because of peer pressure. At some point, the simplicity of the outdoors turned into a game of have and have-nots.

I was raised outside of Middle Musquodoboit, a small rural community an hour outside of Halifax where I was one of three Black students in my school. Since leaving my community, I realized my experience with outdoor recreation growing up as a Black girl in Nova Scotia was somewhat unique. 

My luck lied in the fact that the wilderness was my backyard. I also had the privileged and rare experience in Nova Scotia that outdoor education was intertwined with my curriculum throughout junior and senior high, learning skills like orienteering and cross-country skiing. If it were not for these opportunities in which the school provided these free services and the proper gear, I probably would not have had these recreational activities. 

It is easy to say, “just get outside, you don’t need money to enjoy nature,” but that’s privileged and unrealistic thinking. The little things add up (gear, clothes, transportation, etc.). I share this insight not to make anyone feel bad, or sorry, but to bring awareness to the fact that this winter season, outdoor recreation is not accessible to all families in Nova Scotia. We do not all the ability to just “up and go.” Now that I have been able to overcome some of life’s obstacles, I know it is just as important to reflect on the times in which they were present. 

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