“Be your own recreation director. Get out on the trails, visit parks in different communities, sign up for a program at one of our facilities,” said the Scotsburn resident.
She’s all for organized recreation, but is equally excited about spontaneous activity.
“If you are going out for a hike, call somebody to go with you. If you are taking your family, call another family or two.”
Recreation is a lot like health care, she added. “You have to take some responsibility.”
That’s not to say better promotion and communication around amenities and activities isn’t needed, she said.
“We have so much here, but there is still an issue communicating what is available. With kids, recreation kind of happens naturally, but we have to think of seniors, single people, those with disabilities and on fixed incomes. We really have to promote the good, free options we have.”
Gunn is currently the highland regional representative for the Department of Communities, Sport and Recreation, which comes under the Nova Scotia Ministry of Communities, Culture and Heritage. She studied recreation and leadership at the University of New Brunswick and has been working in the field for the better part of two decades.
“I’ve had the luck to have jobs I really enjoy. Often my work is an extension of what I’d be doing as a volunteer, so I don’t feel it is a burden to be at work. Not knowing where work ends and volunteering starts is a good problem to have.”
Her job is to help municipalities and community groups access support, including infrastructure dollars. “There is a need to improve what we have, as well as adding on. We still need people who will sit down and fill in the grant application. We still need champions.”
Working with people who care about their communities is gratifying, she said. “I see so many people, staff and volunteers, who work so hard to make things happen.”
Growing up with three siblings in Charlo, in northern New Brunswick, Gunn was always involved in school sports.
“It was very rural area and my mother didn’t drive, so school sports were a big thing for us. I’m thankful for the coaches and others who made activities possible for us so I’m always happy to help any way I can today. By comparison, my kids have way more at their disposal.”
Gunn met her husband, Travis, at UNB and they married and moved to Scotsburn just after graduation. They have four daughters, ranging in age from six to 12.
“We have music, 4-H, karate, swimming, soccer and no end of things the kids want to do. With us right now, it comes down to how many things can we get to, not how can we find fun things to do.”
For many people it’s how to spend spare time that makes life good, she pointed out.
“It is easy to measure the wait list for hip replacements, but it’s hard to measure the benefits that come from having trails, parks and active events in our communities, but we know there is an important health benefit.”
She suggested recreational options also contribute to a sense of belonging. “People settle where they do because of employment, but they are also looking for places they can be happy and find what they need.”
While Gunn realizes some people who move into rural communities may feel some degree of isolation, she didn’t.
“I married into the community for a start, so I had support that way. Later my sister and her husband got jobs in Pictou County and settled near us. Then later my third sister also found work here and settled near us, so my situation is unique. It is very efficient for my parents when they come to visit but definitely unique.”
Even without the family support, she believes Scotsburn’s vibrancy as a community would have appealed to her.
“Early on it was easy to make friends through church and school. Once your kids are into activities, you meet more people and when you have four kids you learn the value of teaming up with other parents to get everything covered.”
She also suggested a community that has earned a reputation for being active will work hard to hold onto it.
“We’ve got a lot of good people who are active in school, church and community. When you know there is support to tap into, it is easier to take on new initiatives, but it is important to let others know their ideas and help are welcome.’’
Gunn considers herself lucky to live in a rural area that is still relatively close to services.
“What we can’t get in our own community is close by, so is quite convenient. We often combine swimming lessons in Pictou with getting groceries. For sports and other activities, we still don’t have far to go so we are where we want to be.”