In 2019, Sechelt resident Sonya Richmond set out to walk across Canada’s Great Trail while documenting birds and inspiring others to reconnect with nature along the way.
Although Richmond and her hiking partner Sean Morton don’t expect to cross their project’s finish line until 2023, Come Walk With Us has already gained a following and praise. This year alone, the project received a letter of support from the Prime Minister and recognition as an official Royal Canadian Geographical Society Expedition. Most recently, Richmond has been named one of 24 finalists for the Canadian Museum of Nature’s eighth annual Nature Inspiration Awards.
“These nature leaders – ranging from individual youth and adults, to not-for-profits and community groups, to sustainable businesses – show leadership through innovative projects that connect Canadians with the natural world,” a press release from the museum said.
The museum will host an online ceremony to announce the winners from six categories on Nov. 24. The winners will receive $5,000, which they “pay forward” to a nature-related program of their choice.
“That’s incredibly encouraging for us,” Richmond said of her recent accolades. “We’re out here promoting diversity on the trail and in the outdoor community, and just trying to inspire Canadians to explore more of Canada, discover it for themselves, and to reconnect with nature through birding. And all of those things are starting to be recognized, which means that people are responding to that.”
They chose birding, not only because of Richmond’s expertise as an ornithologist and GIS analyst with the charity Birds Canada, but also because it’s accessible to everyone.
“No matter where you live, who you are, it’s literally impossible to go outside your door and not hear or see at least one bird. And even for people that have been stuck indoors during the pandemic, it’s still possible to maintain that connection with nature,” Richmond said.
Richmond and Morton have documented their efforts with daily blog posts from the Great Trail (formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail), the world’s longest pathway at 27,000 kilometres. Although Richmond has studied birds for years, even she is seeing some species for the first time.
Speaking to Coast Reporter after reaching the Alberta border, Richmond has walked over 9,300 kilometres since leaving Newfoundland. Next year, the duo will continue to hike across Alberta and B.C., before heading north for the final 5,000 kilometres of their trek. For now, as they take a break during the winter, Richmond works full-time while the pair write a book about the expedition and continue the behind-the-scenes tasks.
Being nominated for the Nature Inspiration Awards is an honour for Richmond, she said.
The museum’s president and CEO, Meg Beckel, said, “These awards are taking place at a time when the pandemic is reminding us how much we need a responsible connection to nature for our health and wellbeing.”
For now, Richmond and Morton are still inviting the public to “Come Walk with Us” and follow along at comewalkwithus.online.