Exploring with orienteering

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Kara Turner, a member of the town&#8217;s home and school committee and an orienteering enthusiast, helped organize an orientering event at Bayview Community School and a now permanent orienteering trail around the elementary school.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Ruby Harris and Evie Hall make their way toward a control marker during the World Orienteering event.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Luca Annable and Adah Young dash off after finding a control marker.</p>

Kara Turner grew up running through the woods searching for clues. The home and school committee member started orienteering as a child in the United Kingdom and was a part of the British orienteering national team.

"For me growing up, map reading was something I took quite seriously and I took great pride in it as a skill," she said.

Now, Turner is helping to set up a permanent orienteering course at Bayview in the hopes that the sport will catch on across the South Shore.

Orienteering is an international sport, mostly done on foot but also using vehicles. It requires that participants navigate using a compass and topographical map, which will lead them to control points or markers. Turner says most events run approximately an hour with 600 metres to a kilometre between each control point.

"It's a cross-country running event where you try to find the fastest way between two control points," said Turner. "The best route for somebody might be to go around the path and run as fast as they can around the path, and the best route for somebody else might be to walk nice and slowly straight through the forest. That's what I like about it, is that there's a route choice between every control."

For Turner, it's all about being outside and getting kids, including her own, off their devices.

"I want them to learn it at school, I want their friends to learn it, and then I want them to bring their parents and grandparents to the events we put on," she said. "Getting people outside, getting people active, especially children, keeping them away from the T.V. and the video games is a really important thing."

Bayview received a $400 grant from the province to implement a permanent orienteering course, which will be used for gym classes. Turner was walking in the woods one day and found an orienteering map of the area made by a nearby resident. She received permission to use and modify the map for the students.

The map takes students throughout school property, and into wooded areas already used for outdoor learning, down paths, and into the soccer field. The map was simple enough that the students did not require a compass. Traditional orienteering control point markers dot the school property and are now permanent fixtures.

But Turner says students shouldn't count on the markers always being labeled the same, as teachers might change them up from time to time to keep students on their toes.

World Orienteering Day was on May 11 and 215,000 people around the world participated in the sport, including 350 from Bayview. Turner says only two schools in the province registered to take part in the day, including a school from Halifax.

"So we were a part of this worldwide movement," she said.

Part of that movement aims to get people not just running and moving, but also using their brains while they do it.

"There is a movement called 'Why just run,' which orienteering is a part of that basically says why would you just go for a run when you can orienteer between two places, use your brain while you're out, geo-caching, that sort of thing, it's all a part of this movement," said Turner.

Turner's three children also participate in orienteering, both at school and at home with Turner and her husband. Her eldest daughter has started orienteering on her own and with a friend, although Turner shadows them to make sure they don't get turned around or lost.

Since moving to the area several years ago from Alberta, Turner has been inspired to bring more orienteering to the South Shore. She's the founder of the group South Shore Orienteers, which is holding an orienteering event in Mahone Bay on June 4, National Trail Day in Canada.

"It's open to everybody," she said. "You can walk it with a toddler or your grandma, or just enjoy being out on the trail in the woods or you can run it at top speed and see if you can get the quickest time."

The course begins behind the Mahone Bay Centre, and will take participants through the woods and town along the Bay to Bay trail. Beginner clinics will also be available for participants wanting to brush up on their map reading skills and the Lunenburg County Ground Search and Rescue will be on site teaching basic wilderness safety skills.

Turner hopes to plan similar events soon, including a kayaking one in Blue Rocks.

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