Fiona Westner-Ramsay of Badger Paddles calls it an outdoor advocacy campaign disguised as a contest. She started the Paddle in the Park Contest in 2012 with friend and outdoor blogger Preston Ciere after coming across research which outlined the many physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature. She wanted to come up with a way to encourage people to get outdoors and reap those rewards. One day the concept for the contest just clicked – what if she could encourage people to get outside by hiding tangible rewards for them to find and keep?
ince 2012, Fiona, Preston and others have been hiding paddles within the boundaries of Ontario’s provincial parks and methodically leaking clues about their whereabouts to a devoted following of contest participants. Each year the contest gets tweaked slightly, with twists on the original rules, new locations and hiders. Past paddle hiders have included Kevin Callan, Hap and Andrea Wilson, and Becky Mason.
For the last three years the contest has expanded beyond the original paddle-seeking scavenger hunt model. Participants can now also download a Paddle Points checklist of the contest’s website and submit photos which demonstrate that they’ve completed the items on the list. The list includes everything from visiting the retail locations of contest sponsors to cooking bannock and pitching tents. Those who accrue paddle points are eligible to win prize packs from the contest’s sponsors.
Most importantly, five years later the contest has lived up to Fiona’s original vision of inspiring individuals and families to spend quality time in the outdoors, and to take advantage of the many benefits that doing so confers. In this sense all contest participants walk away winners.
Since the contest began in 2012, Nova Craft has sponsored the contest by providing the grand prize, a Prospector 16 canoe, for the lucky draw winner. This year we are pleased to present the prize to Katherine Siren, a regular participant in the contest who accrued 1135 paddle points this year.
Congratulations to Katherine and a big thank you to Fiona, Preston and everyone involved in making the Paddle in the Park Contest a continued success. Remember: “rewards are out there”!