Opening A Whole New World Of Outdoor Recreation

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To really appreciate what a valuable resource Settlement.Org is, you have to access it online. However, for those of you who have yet to discover this wonderful website managed by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), we will (with kind permission from OCASI) be happy to introduce you to the Settlement.Org guide to Sports and Recreation.

The Settlement.Org site has over a thousand hyperlinks, giving you access to enough information to fill a set of encyclopedias. And each of those links will lead you to even more information from a wide
selection of excellent and dependable sources. One of settlement.Org’s greatest feats is sorting through the millions of pages available on the internet, in order to connect you to the best resources available.

To find their Sports and Recreation information, begin on the left hand side of the top menu bar. Clicking “Community and Recreation” gives you a drop-down menu. The bottom entry is “Sports and Recreation”.

There are boxes down the left side of every page with short sub-menus of “Current Discussions”, “News and Events”, “Featured Resources” and more. And the general menu bar across the top stays the same no matter where you are on the site.

On the main “Sports and Recreation” page, you are given a choice between two featured topics. Choose one and you can read a short overview about the subject along with their selected links. For instance, if you choose “Where can I find a local Recreation Centre?” the following information is what you will see.

Where Can I Find a Local Recreation Centre?

Every community in Ontario has community and recreation programs and facilities that you can use. Most of the time, these programs and facilities are free or do not cost very much to use.

Recreational facilities such as an arena, a swimming pool or a gymnasium are often part of community centres. Sometimes these spaces are open for general enjoyment, such as a “free swim” or “free skate”; at other times facilities will be used for lessons or for specific programs such as water aerobics (aquafit).

Although access to some recreational activities is free, you may sometimes have to pay a user fee. You may need to register for special programs and lessons before the program starts, and many programs will cost money. Municipal governments usually publish a guide to recreational activities that provides a description of local facilities, times when activities are running and fee information.

Students take physical education as part of the elementary school curriculum and there are also many extra-curricular sports and recreation programs, especially once they reach secondary school. Team sports are also popular in Ontario, especially hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball. Children can begin learning these sports outside of school and can continue to play in anything from casual games to competitive leagues.

It is never too late to learn a new sport or form of physical activity. Adult programs for beginners exist for many sports and activities. Some types of physical activity are also more adult-oriented, such as aerobics and squash. Many seniors also enjoy physical activities such as aquafit classes, brisk walking, or golf.

A disability doesn’t need to be a handicap to participation in sport. Wheelchair sports such as basketball and hockey are now much more common and access for people who are disabled is improving at many recreational facilities.

In addition to community recreational facilities, people can join private fitness clubs. These vary greatly in terms of facilities, programs and cost. Some clubs combine recreational facilities with other facilities and services such as a lounge or restaurant.

The Links and Search Tools

Links are provided for a number of major cities in Ontario. Settlement.Org suggests looking for departments of Parks and Recreation, or for departments with words like “leisure” and “community” in their titles.

This is followed by a link to municipal websites in Ontario that takes you to the Ontario Municipal Home Page. From there, you can visit the homepages of literally hundreds of towns, cities, counties and districts. You can check out maps, read community profiles and explore remote areas of the province like the Township of Bonnechere Valley, in the Upper Ottawa Valley that features “a story book kind of scenery dotted with lakes and rivers, hills and forests” or the village of Oil Springs (near Sarnia), site of the first commercial oil well in North America or Kenora, a city that describes itself as the hidden gem of Northwestern Ontario.

Near the bottom of the page, you will find the “Find Help Close to Home” tool to help you find a local recreation centre.

Choosing “Hamilton and Area” will take you to “Inform Hamilton” a page featuring links not only to the Hamilton Community Services Culture and Recreation Division, but also to African Lion Safari and the Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre. If you click community centres on the sidebar, it will give you a choice of 14 community centers, nine recreational facilities and 89 drop-in centers. So if you’re looking for something to do or somewhere to go in Hamilton or anywhere else in Ontario, this is a great place to start.

The site suggests other ways to find community centres in your area including looking under “Recreation Centre” in the Yellow Pages.

Among the links at the end of this article is Sport Canada’s list of National Sport Organizations in Canada. More than 60 sports are represented on the list, from the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association entry on Boccia to Table Tennis Canada to the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association.

The other main topic covered under “Sports and Recreation” is85

What Outdoor Activities are Available?

Recreation and physical activity are a crucial part of good health, both mental and physical.

Recreation can provide a chance for quiet time alone or an opportunity for social interaction. The variety of forms of physical activity to which Ontarians have access has grown.

Ontarians now practice sports and activities from around the world such as cricket, bocce and tai chi. Keeping physically active is a priority for Ontarians, regardless of age, gender, physical and mental ability in relation to sport and recreation. This means that there are many options available to you in your community. Even smaller municipal parks offer urban access to the outdoors. Parks are a place to walk a dog, go for a run or read a book. Many parks have a
playground area with swings and slides for children. Some offer outdoor recreational facilities such as ice rinks, tennis courts or swimming pools and many parks include a larger field area for team sports.

Every city has a parks and recreation department. These departments offer low-cost or free sport and recreation opportunities and facilities that you can use. They are available to all age groups. They usually offer activities that are specific to the season. For example, you can find free skating rinks in the winter and swimming pools in the summer. Find out what is available to you in your community by contacting your local city government.

There are many outdoor activities for you and your family that are available all year long. Ontario’s parks offer many options including hiking, camping, cross-country skiing and canoeing. It is often not
necessary to travel far from home. Many of Ontario’s communities are quite close to large park spaces with lakes and forests.

Many municipalities have paved trails for walking, roller-blading and cycling. Trails often run through park areas or along water. A national project is currently underway to build a trail from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast. Parts of the Trans Canada Trail are already accessible in Ontario.

As on the rest of the website, this section ends with a selection of useful links that has been chosen by the Settlement.Org team as among the most helpful for newcomers. An example of some of the useful links provided in the article include Canada Safety Council’s fact sheets on bicycle safety, sun safety and cold weather activities; Canada’s Physical Activity Guide which outlines physical activities for expectant mothers and seniors; Parks and Recreation Ontario, Parks Canada and Ontario Parks websites, which have information about individual parks and online reservation service for camping areas.

The Best Place to Start Your Search

Whether you’re looking for sports and recreation, consumer information, information on education, health, housing or more, Settlement.Org is easily the most comprehensive resource for newcomers in Ontario. We highly recommend that you visit them the next time you’re at a computer.

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