For 25 years, Ann and Dan Wright have longed to share their love of nature.
Now, thanks to some help from the Chatham-Kent Tourism Spark program, the Bothwell couple’s dream is coming to fruition.
“Being in nature is a way of life for us,” Ann Wright explained in a recent interview.
She says the couple wanted to develop a business doing something they love by helping others embrace nature.
So the pair came up a plan. Called Shay-D-Star Forest — named after their three daughters — the family plans to provide unique nature experiences including forest bathing on their 70-acre property off of Longwoods Road.
“Doctors are now prescribing nature connections and forest bathing therapy for people,” Wright says, adding there are clear health benefits to spending time in nature.
“We decided it was now or never.”
The Wright’s have owned the property for 30 years. It’s primarily old growth Carolinian forest — part of the ribbon of richly diverse woodlands in Southwestern Ontario that is home to a number of rare and endangered species.
Part of their plan includes leading groups, exposing people to therapeutic benefits of nature.
Forest bathing — the term was developed in Japan — encourages a scientific and sensory approach to being in nature that engages all five senses,
In order to further their dream the Wrights decided to take apply to the first-ever C-K Tourism Spark program.
They were one of five businesses selected.
Modelled in part on Dragon’s Den, Spark requires participants to make a five-minute pitch to a panel outlining their business plan.
Winners receive $3,000 grant to take their tourism initiatives to the level, including a one-on-one mentorship and help with developing a digital presence.
According to Chatham-Kent Tourism Supervisor Shannon Paiva, the aim of the Spark program is to develop unique and different tourism ideas.
Because the tourism sector has been so hard hit, new and different approaches are more important than ever, she adds.
Helping owners gain a digital presence is also key, she adds.
“The markets are out there,”Paiva says, adding it’s gratifying to see what aspiring entrepreneurs are coming up.
“We have so much to offer here in Chatham-Kent,” Paiva explains.
The Wrights admit the pandemic has slowed their dream down but it’s not going to stop them.
“We believe we will be able to safely offer programs,” she adds.
“We’ve never had a clearer vision.”
Applications for the second round of Spark can be made until March 5, by contacting www.tourisminnovation.ca/Chatham-Kent. Five winners will again be selected.
Virtual information sessions will be held online Feb. 11 and 17.
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald