It was 20 years ago that Lidy and Ron Kok agreed to initiate my suggestion of an event to celebrate native plants, environmental causes and organic gardening in what became our first Nature Day.
It was a humble occasion in the beginning, with a handful of local wildlife groups, such as the Alouette Field Naturalists, KEEPS, Riverview Horticultural Centre and the Burke Mountain Field Naturalists, all huddled around folding tables in our perennial house.
Hendrik Meekel and his fabulous butterfly collection and Vlad’s Apiary were located in the store to keep things dry (we have often been plagued by the rain curse) and afford our visitors a little warmth.
Twenty years later, the event is held in the new heated greenhouse with lots of legroom and table space, with new owners Jason and Lindsay Kok bringing in additional attractions, such as face painting and a fabulous poultry display by the local 4-H club.
The big draw has always been the Raptors Ridge show by Karen and Kim Kamstra, allowing young and old alike a close-up look at owls and hawks, as well as some insight into their habits in the wild.
The massive stuffed cougar and petting bear rug at the WildSafe B.C. display draws the wide-eyed youngsters who love to cautiously pat the massive paws of both, while Dan Mikolay explains to parents the importance of securing food sources (garbage, bird feeders, unpicked tree fruits) so that bears don’t become habituated to feeding too close to where people spend their time.
There’s a wonderful artistic side to this event with Judy Osiowy of the Ramsay Blueberry Farm showing off her sublime works, and Zdena from Novy’s Organic Gardens bringing her whimsical planter boxes for all to enjoy.
And, of course, there is our colouring contest, which has always brought out the Van Gogh’s in our kids who tend to prefer the rainbow hues instead of the traditional greens and browns.
Both the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows garden Clubs have also been with us from day one, with each of them setting up stunning floral displays and dispensing any necessary horticultural advice.
There are many other booths and exhibitors, all promoting such ideals as identifying and removing invasive plants, organic fertilizers and soil amendments, planting flowers to attract bees and advertising local like-minded events like the Albion fair, Circle Farm Tour and Earth Day.
In the native plant section, salal was the hot item, as it was recently featured on television news as the next super berry, full of health benefits and well-adapted to local growing conditions.
This year’s Nature Day happened to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, so we had quite a few visitors in green – including Sierra and Kaitlyn Squires, who spent a long time at Hendrik’s display discovering the wonderful world of butterflies.
In fact, that is one trend I am happy to report and I had more than one of our exhibitors comment at how many children were attending this time around, as Nature Day had often been the vanguard of the stereotypical 1970s environmentalists in the past.
But if we hope to make changes that will have any impact on our ailing planet, then we have to convince our youngest that recycling, using organic products, preserving nature and caring for the world around us are important enough to adopt as lifestyles, not just the topic of one-day events.
But if their joyous expressions were any indication, I’d say that this year’s Nature Day was a resounding success.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (firstname.lastname@example.org).