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'Mental fitness trail' set up on Vancouver Island pathway

District of Lantzville and Rotary Club of Lantzville partner on E&N Trail mental health project
Rotary Club of Lantzville has established a Mental Fitness Trail along a portion of the E&N Trail.

A stretch of trail in Lantzville is intended to keep users in a good frame of mind.

The Rotary Club of Lantzville has established a mental fitness trail on a two-kilometre stretch of the E&N Trail between Clark Drive and Ware Road as part of a project in partnership with the District of Lantzville.

"We initially were talking with the district about doing some work tidying up one of the little park areas in the village and we were running into a few little challenges with that," said Mark Taylor, Lantzville Rotarian.

In speaking with Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain, Taylor learned of a person experiencing homelessness who provided the inspiration for the trail. Adam Ojala had a very tough life, Taylor said, dealing with mental health issues and unable to get the support that he needed.

"He couldn't [live safely] in a community environment, so he ended up living in the bush in Lantzville, but he kept his place absolutely spotless," said Taylor. "He cleaned up other junk that other people were leaving around. Every day, he'd get up, he'd get himself into town, he'd get a shower and recharge his computer, he'd do volunteer work and then at the end of the day, would go back to his camp."

Ojala's family had reached out to the district, seeking to build a bench in his memory, but Taylor and Swain thought there was a greater opportunity. The idea of a mental health trail, with signage pointing people to resources and providing information about mental health challenges, was discussed, but after reaching out to Vancouver Island Crisis Society and Canadian Mental Health Association, it was thought to be too broad a topic to fit on signs. At that point, a mental fitness trail was suggested.

"You have a ParticipAction trail with different activities," said Taylor. "Your brain is a muscle and it needs to be exercised and ... there are things that you can do to help maintain a healthier mental fitness and so that's where it grew from." 

After collaborating with the crisis society and mental health association, 10 signs were set up along the trail.

"The last one and the first one are identical," said Taylor. “As you walk in you get ‘How am I feeling now?' What do I feel my mental state is?' Then once you get to the other end, having done all the exercises, you can reassess, 'Am I feeling better?' 'Am I feeling worse?' ... And one of the signs in the middle [talks] about Adam and his story, and the genesis behind the whole trail."

The project cost $11,000, with $1,500 from the District of Lantzville, $5,000 from Lantzville Rotary and the balance from a Rotary International grant.

Taylor said it is thought that Lantzville's mental fitness trail is the first of its kind in North America.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for July 12.

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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