Yukon recreation group wins Arctic Inspiration Prize

The Recreation and Parks Association of the Yukon and its partners in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have won the 2015 Arctic Inspiration Prize.

The Recreation and Parks Association of the Yukon and its partners in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have won the 2015 Arctic Inspiration Prize.

They plan to use the $600,000 award to launch a tri-territorial training project for recreation leaders across the North, including coaches, camp counsellors and youth leaders. They will also be working with a social enterprise called Campus for Communities of the Future.

“We’re pretty excited. It’s a pretty big deal,” said Anne Morgan, executive director of RPAY. “It’s something we’ve worked on for a long time now, speaking with community leaders and trying to figure out what support they need to be good recreation leaders in their communities.”

Morgan said there’s a lot of turnover among coaches and other leaders in remote northern communities, so the quality of recreation services can be spotty.

Providing training opportunities across the North should help build a support network among recreation leaders in different communities, she said.

She added that leaders often have to go Outside for training, instead of being able to stay in their communities.

“Then the learnings often in the South aren’t really that relevant for communities in the North.”

Olympic cyclist Zach Bell nominated the training project for the Arctic Inspiration Prize after hearing about it last summer.

“I understand how much of an impact it can have, particularly in small, northern communities,” he said.

Bell said his success stems from the training he had growing up in Watson Lake.

“I saw this program as an opportunity for people to create that stable programming in every region of the North.”

Morgan said the program will address 13 competencies, including risk management, financial planning and quality programming.

She said the risk-management portion will focus on helping leaders to develop activities that are safe and accessible to everyone in the community. The financial planning portion will include how to budget and write proposals.

“As we move along, we’ll develop curriculum and workshops and training,” she explained.

Since winning the award on Wednesday, the group has already met for a planning meeting. Its next steps are to rework the budget and put together a work plan, Morgan said.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize is awarded annually to organizations working on projects to improve life in the Canadian Arctic.

The prize is usually worth $1 million, but it was bumped to $1.5 million last year, thanks to increased support from partners.

This year’s award was divided between the tri-territorial training project and two other recipients. Better Hearing for Northern Youth won $300,000 to improve the lives of youth with hearing loss in the Qikiqtani (Baffin) region of Nunavut. And Qaggiq: Nurturing the Arctic Performing Arts won $600,000 to develop the skills of northern performing artists.

Contact Maura Forrest at