Flash Back Fridays

MONEY A PROBLEM, BUT OUTDOOR COUPLE ‘STILL IN BALL GAME’: PROGRAM BRINGS NATURE LORE TO THOUSANDS

By Moira Farrow, The Vancouver Sun, May 16, 1975

If Jim and Myrna Boulding were out to make money, the last thing they’d be doing is running an outdoor education centre. But that‘s what they have chosen to do so last year they made a profit of $2500 for twelve months of work.

“And it was the first time that we were not in the red” Mrs. Boulding laughed.

Timbers being hewn for use at the Lodge

Timbers being hewn for use at the Lodge

Money has no priority in the Bouldings personal scale of values, but ironically, they spend a lot of time worrying about the lack of it. It’s not possible to give outdoor education to thousands of children and adults every year without cash to pay the bills. “At last we’re still in the ball game and that is where we want to be” Boulding said. “We built the buildings ourselves – we like building  buildings’ said the 43-year-old Boulding who shrugged off the massive construction project as though it were of only minor interest.

The couple has turned their place into an outdoor education centre, where their hearts had always been. They have opened their doors at minimum prices to thousands of young people and even a few senior citizens.

They admit that they could not have survived without the help of the provincial government to subsidize the teacher’s summer programs. Last year the education department gave Strathcona $100,000 for its summer programs, but this year, because of general budget cutbacks, the grant was cut to $75,000.

Another problem is Boulding’s outspokenness. He is the first to admit that his blunt comments about everything from “petty despot school principals” to forest company “outdoor cowboys” has won him plenty of enemies as well as friends. But he says he has no intention of shutting up when principles are involved.

And in spite of all the hassles, Strathcona has made a success of its prime objective – teaching people about the outdoors. By the end of this year, 10,000 youngsters and teachers will have enjoyed its programs and taken their new knowledge back to communities all over B.C.

The Lodge provides everything one would expect in the field of outdoor education: cross country skiing, canoeing, kayaking, wilderness survival, fishing, marine biology, snow-shoeing and wildlife observation. But that is only half of it. Visitors can also learn weaving, pottery, photography, West Coast Indian culture and a score of other subjects. “We’re not really an environmental education centre, we’re a rural experience.” Boulding said. “We have to do everything ourselves – recycling our garbage, running our water systems and baking our bread. And it is a good thing that people can learn things from us because that is what the world is coming to,”

Some of Strathcona’s staff have formal degrees, and even they often get involved in teaching subjects unrelated to their specialty. An ornithologist, for example, teaches rock climbing and a nurse helps with canoe instruction. Local people with such special skills as weaving and wood carving drop in to teach a course in the summer.

As for the chores, everyone helps, whether it’s doing the dishes or vacuuming.

Strathcona is a family experience as well as a rural one because the Boulding’s live on the property and their three teenagers are involved in many courses. Their fourth and youngest child, 20-month-old Josephte, is everybody’s pet and bounces from knee to knee at communal meals in the vast dining room.

The Bouldings dislike intensely structured institutions with bells ringing every hour and long lists of rules, so Strathcona has a far more relaxed atmosphere than most similar places.

“I’m the super heavy around here,” said Mrs. Boulding who has very few minutes to herself all day long but never loses her sense of humor. She plans the menus (lots of fresh vegetables and whole wheat bread), but shares the cooking with the other staff.

No one is coddled at Strathcona – the youngsters keep their own rooms tidy and pick up driftwood to keep the stoves going.

“We are very high on what the Indians called ‘generosity of spirit’ – that’s what this place is all about,” Boulding said.