Discover Parks Ambassadors Inspire New Generation of Nature Lovers

June 26, 2024

Discover Parks Ambassadors Inspire New Generation of Nature Lovers

As a child, Cheryl Kelly spent entire summers off the grid, living in a cabin with no electricity in the East Kootenays.   

At night, the family’s entertainment included games of cribbage lit by propane lamps and quiet cruises along the waterways to observe the western painted turtles as they took advantage of the cooler hour to forage for food.  

"Dozens of little baby turtles the size of a quarter,” Cheryl says, making a small circle with her hands. “They're so precious."

Today, Cheryl notes that she doesn't see as many western painted turtles anymore, despite the fact that she works as a Discover Parks Ambassador in Kikomun Creek Park, which boasts the highest concentration of western painted turtles in the province.  

In the time since those night cruises, the species has experienced significant decline and, in 2006, was listed as endangered in Canada.  

"It's heartbreaking," Cheryl says. "To think that what was so integral to the person I became might not be available for future generations to enjoy is a real wake-up call."

A Walk in the Park

Discover Parks offers a wide variety of programs for all ages and interests, whether you're looking for educational workshops on bear safety or fun campfire sing-alongs. “No real campfire involved,” Cheryl emphasizes. “Though I do make a prop fire with tissue paper and driftwood, because I'm crafty like that.” 

The Discover Parks Ambassadors (DPAs), readily identifiable in BC Parks in their bright orange uniforms, are passionate about sharing their knowledge and love of the outdoors. They offer interactive experiences throughout the day, from setting up microscopes for nature exploration to leading interpretation walks. Weekend amphitheatre programs are a highlight, drawing large crowds for a fun and interactive experience under the stars. 

Since 2020, DPAs have interacted with nearly 300,000 park visitors. Cheryl says that every single one of those interactions is different, special, and completely personal. 

“And it's not just kids,” she says. “It's newcomers to Canada. It’s newcomers to the area. It’s newcomers to nature. Or maybe it’s someone who’s a real animal fanatic. I can also talk to geology lovers. I can do fossils. I can speak on plants like you wouldn't believe.” 

(Believe it. In our short conversation, I learn yarrow was used to staunch the blood of Achille’s heel; arrowleaf balsamroot provides the Ktunaxa people with the first edible plant in spring; and duckweed both a food source and sunbathing dock for western painted turtles.)  

“So, it's always a unique connection,” Cheryl says. “And that's what we're there for. To connect, and to help create a spark that lights up your curiosity, lights up your senses, and lights up your joy.”  

Cheryl believes that spending too much time in front of screens can disconnect us from the world around us and prevent us from truly appreciating the beauty and wonder of the natural world.  

Through her work as a DPA, she encourages people to step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors.  

This summer, she’s most excited for the return of her very special week of western painted turtle programming. "We do turtle games, turtle crafts, and even turtle Jeopardy. We have a research team come in to talk about how they track and care for the turtles," she explains. 

"Even if these kids may not see as many western painted turtles as I did growing up,” Cheryl says, “we can still teach them about how important and precious they are. And we can still inspire them to want to help bring them back.” 

Join us in supporting the Discover Parks program and help nurture the next generation of environmental stewards.

Visit to learn more about our initiatives and how you can get involved in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of BC's parks. Together, we can create the greatest system of parks and protected areas in the world.