Posted on June 6th, 2011 by .

Canadians aren’t known for their bragging – even though we’ve got plenty to brag about. Not that I’m bragging about it… Seriously though, I just learned that we started the world’s first national parks service! And it’s 100 years old this year! Yeah, Parks Canada might be old but it still knows how to party…

To celebrate a century of protecting vast regions of this nation’s wilderness so that we can go out there and hike, camp, swim, bird-watch and simply commune with nature, Parks Canada is enticing Canadians and non-Canadians alike with special activities and programs spanning the 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas. As a birthday bonus, on July 1, Canada Day, entry to all parks nationwide will be free.

Here in Montreal, it’s blissfully easy to find yourself in nature – it can be a short bike trip to the neighbourhood park or as far away as Forillon National Park in the Gaspé peninsula or La Mauricie National Park in the Laurentiens mountains. But the city itself presents plenty of great options…

For those for whom nature isn’t second nature, Parks Canada is giving help on how to, well, survive the wild. On June 17-18 at the Lachine Canal, city slickers can camp out among 100 tents (or bring your own) and stay overnight in the history site. Beforehand, brush up with tips on how to go camping. And while you’re at it, why not combine that with a night at the nearby Montreal Folk Festival? Later in the summer, on August 13, Montreal outdoor dance party creation Piknic Electronik sets up on the Canal Lachine too. And August 20-21, Fort Chamblay National Historic Site one-ups Parks Canada’s 100 years with its 300th birthday – activities for the whole family happen all weekend.

Sure, Parks Canada is all up on the Facebook and the Twitter, but perhaps their hippest and most creatively awesome endeavor is the National Parks Project, which sent 13 filmmakers and 39 musicians in teams into 13 national parks last year to explore how the presence of the parks affects our lives in general, even if we’ve never hiked a trail or hugged a tree at all.

Yes, if there’s anything Canadians have bragging rights to, it’s about how much we love the great outdoors. Now, time to get out there…

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