Greetings Wildlands League community! My name is Eugenia Kwok, Outreach Manager at Wildlands League. I am fascinated with the tireless work and volunteer support I see for Wildlands League. I’ve started a new blog series called “Volunteer Spotlight” to showcase some of the amazing work that our volunteers do and what compels them to give their time and effort to protect Canadian nature. This is an interview with Wildlands League volunteer Alex Kalynychenko.

EK: Why do you choose to volunteer at Wildlands League?

Alex at Chatyr Dag Mountainous Plateau National Nature Park

AK: I’m environmental scientist with background in biology and geography; for many years my research and later teaching at university were focused on natural and cultural heritage conservation, protected areas management, and sustainable outdoor tourism (ecotourism). So, shortly after I relocated to Canada with my family in spring 2018, I contacted Canadian Ministry of Environment, Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expressing my professional interest to learn best Canadian practices on protected areas establishment and management. In May, I found out about the Rouge National Urban Park from the Rouge Park team during the Toronto Newcomer Day. I was interested to see the park and understand how the Parks Canada operates, so I visited Rouge Park several times on my own, hiked its trails with the park volunteers and later enjoyed with my family the Rouge After Dark event. Then I contacted Rouge Park administration with proposal to volunteer for the park. Visitor Services Team Leader mentioned the upcoming Paddle the Rouge and advised to volunteer for the event with the Wildlands League.  When I looked at the organization website I was really impressed by its mission and variety of projects, including Paddle the Rouge. Back home in Ukraine I enjoyed sea-kayaking and co-organized several public eco-kayaking events, so I registered as kayaking instructor volunteer for Paddle the Rouge to share my knowledge and experience and learn from the Wildlands League tea

EK: What does Paddle The Rouge mean to you? 

Paddle the Rouge 2018

AK: From what I learned and experienced, Paddle the Rouge is a great idea, and a masterfully crafted and conducted campaign that brings public attention to the Rouge National Urban Park which is the first Canadian park of its kind, connects GTA dwellers, especially those who are new in Canada, with outdoor, and motivates people to learn more and discover the exciting world of Canadian natural wonders. It is also a great outdoor event that allows getting to know interesting people, meet with Wildlands League team in outdoor setting, chat with other organizers and participants such as Parks Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-Op, and others, and memorably spend time with your family.  The bright flash back moments are conversations with paddle instructors, Dave and other WL staff  during the event, teaching kids the basics of paddling, telling them stories about the Rouge river geography, wetlands ecology, ‘leave-no-trace’ ecotourism principles, and seeing my 6 years old daughter kayaking by herself under Janet’s supervision :).  You feel proud of your contribution to a very important common effort to make the world around us just a little bit better, a bit kinder, and a bit more interesting while bringing good memories for those who participated which will stay for a long time and will help people to appreciate and value Nature and Great Outdoor. I think, Paddle the Rouge is worthy to be described in Canadian Geographic magazine because it is so in line with the Royal Canadian Geographic Society mission of “Making Canada better known to Canadians and to the world” and I mentioned about it to the RCGS colleagues.

EK: What was your most memorable moment from volunteering with us?

Alex in the Rocky Mountains, Montana

AK: One of the moments of volunteering with Wildlands League that stays in my memory would probably be kayaking during Paddle the Rouge event in the remote part of lower Rouge river wetlands with team of several kids who never kayaked before in their life after a half-hour struggle to teach them how to navigate a kayak, and finally gliding together on the calm water surface, telling them stories about the river, the wetlands life and the park, seeing their happy eyes, their smiles and later hearing “Thank you!” from  happy families proud for their kids.

EK: What WL campaign are you most interested in?

AK: In collaboration with Wildlands League I’d be really interested to learn successfully working Canadian practices on wildlands protection and protected area management as well as to share my international experience in this sphere. In the past I learned international practices on natural and cultural heritage conservation via marine and terrestrial protected areas while studying environmental policy at the University of Delaware, working for IUCN and Global Ocean Forum, representing Ukraine at the International Seminar on Protected Area Management conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and University of Montana and participating in several international and regional projects on natural protected areas management.  I’m also very interested in traditional indigenous approaches to nature resources management and conservation of natural and cultural heritage. I’m passionate about pristine natural wonders protection for present and future generations – it’s in my heart, and that is significant part of my professional scientific interest as well, so my primarily interests are in projects focused on Algonquin Park and North French River.  However, I’d be glad to assist with Paddle the Rouge campaign as well with understanding of significance of the Rouge NUP as a first national park of its kind in Canada.


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