Urban Nature Connections

Environment & Animal Welfare

Nature Club helps thousands of Winnipeggers explore the great outdoors

A man with a white beard and khanki-coloured wide-brimmed hat stands among tall-grass prairie surrounded by a small audience.
Biologist John Morgan leads an in-depth tour of remnant prairie grass along the Headingley Grand Trunk Trail in September 2022. Credit: Riley Chervinski, CPAWS Manitoba.

Spending time in nature has been proven to increase happiness, reduce stress levels, improve mental health, and encourage better sleep. But in an urban area like Winnipeg, how can people connect with nature to reap the benefits? 

According to Mira Oberman, self-proclaimed nature fanatic and Communications Director with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Manitoba chapter, it’s easier than you might think. Winnipeg is dotted with expansive parks, treed trails, and river views, and Nature Club, a CPAWS program born out of a mission to help people connect with nature and each other safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to help Winnipeggers get in touch with the natural world in their own backyard while building a community of like-minded people. 

CPAWS’ core objective is to protect nature for future generations of people and wildlife. The organization is currently working to protect 30 per cent of Manitoba by 2030, with a goal of eventually protecting half the province. In addition to protecting natural habitat and helping to ensure green space exists for future generations, the organization also strives to connect Manitobans with nature.  

Nature Club, which The Winnipeg Foundation supported through its One-Time Community Grants program, began with a series of pandemic-friendly webinars in late 2020. It blossomed into an in-person club when restrictions were loosened in 2021, allowing members to try their hand at a variety of outdoor activities designed to be all-inclusive.  

“We wanted to design a program to help people who might not necessarily be comfortable getting out and doing this on their own, to find a way to get out and connect with nature in a really easy, simple, safe way,” says Oberman. 

The club, which is open to all, provides free and low-cost opportunities to try hiking, paddling, yoga, and spending time in the forest. There are also opportunities to learn new skills, gain confidence exploring the wilderness, and learn about the province’s flora and fauna. In the summer, group hikes are held every other week, while the winter provides an opportunity for members to go out once a month. 

Since its launch, the club has seen 15,000 people – ranging from parents with small children, to seniors, to friends meeting up for an outdoor adventure – register for webinars and activities. Oberman emphasizes that connecting to nature doesn’t need to be an all-day activity. 

“You can spend an hour and a half in Assiniboine Forest going for a walk, and then getting off to hockey lessons or whatever you’re doing that day,” she says. “We show people places they can get to in an easy, half-day trip. We show them the benefits of getting out into nature, have them meet new people, have some conversations, connect to nature, and have a good day.” 

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