by Nancy Holmes
There is something special about Woodhaven Nature Conservancy. It is an oasis of wilderness in the suburbs of the lower Mission area of Kelowna BC. It is connected to important wildlife corridors up into Myra Bellevue Provincial Park. It has some of the tallest trees in the city, many of which are home to various species of owls, including the nearly extirpated Western Screech Owl. Towering over the winding little paths and the nearly dried-up creek beds are cedars, cottonwoods, and Douglas fir.
In early spring (but later than in other places) the forest floor is dotted with sagebrush buttercups. Later, the park has glorious bowers of mock orange and shy clusters of clematis blooms. The park's chain link fence is hedged with chokecherry, wild rose and Saskatoon berry shrubs. In the fall, the woods are golden with autumn leaves. In winter, the paths are snowy-deep and deer-trodden. All kinds of animals, besides owls, live the park: hawks and quail, bobcats, coyote, deer and bears. None of this richness of biodiversity and ecosystem quite explains what is so magical about the place-- it has a quality of serenity, refuge, and attentiveness that is easy to feel but hard to describe. It seems to carry within it an awareness that it is a place that has been loved.
For about fifty years, it has been a small 22-acre park. It was saved from development in the early 1970s by well-known local naturalists Jim and Joan Burbridge, who lived as caretakers in the park for years. The caretaking duties were taken over by artist Lori Mairs who lived in the park for 14 years and invited artists to work with her in celebrating the place and the Burbridge legacy. Now that the Regional District of the Central Okanagan has removed caretakers from their parks, nearby residents feel there is a role for the community to step in and ensure that stewardship continues and is enhanced and that the cultural and historical legacy of the park is honoured.
The park boundaries have expanded and the park is becoming integrated with the terrific Bellevue Creek corridor that the City and the RDCO are planning. As these new connections to bigger places and plans begin to affect the neighbourhood and the park, we'd like to help steward the health of Woodhaven and its beings, its history and future.
So a small group of neighbours and lovers of Woodhaven have started up The Friends of Woodhaven Nature Conservancy. Artist and Woodhaven neighbour Susan Neilson created a lovely logo for us. Another Woodhaven neighbour, Leah Shurian, organized all the paperwork for the non-profit society and Nancy Holmes created a website.
You too can join us in protecting and celebrating this magical place by coming to our first meeting on Wednesday, February 12 at 7 pm at the Barn Owl Brewing Co (4629 Lakeshore Rd). Become a member and learn more about the society and, if you don't know and love it already, more about Woodhaven. We welcome members and we hope you'll join us in caring for this special place.