Students in the Boundary will soon have a new field trip option, relatively close to home. The West Boundary Community Forest recently acquired a 60-acre parcel of land south of Wilgress Lake that forest manager Dan Macmaster is hoping will become a hub for early education into forestry.
“It’s supposed to be an area where we can get different groups in to learn about forestry and forest management,” Macmaster said last Tuesday at a community forest meeting in Midway. The forester said that he sees the space as a location “to learn about everything from the simple ecology – the small kids learning about collecting bugs and whatnot – to some of the older kids who want to get involved in being a forester or being a logger, or being a silviculturist as well,” he said.
The school bus-accessible site, which was purchased for $220,000 by the Village of Midway and the City of Greenwood – both stakeholders in the community forest – will not be part of the community forest’s logging area, but rather serve to illustrate the state of the forest under different conditions. “It’s a research forest,” Macmaster said, noting that the property boasts an uneven age forest, a riparian zone and a portion of fresh water ecosystem. “Our objectives in it are truly educational outreach objectives.”
Macmaster, a former teacher, has already undertaken some outreach with students in School District 51. Earlier this fall, learners from Greenwood Elementary were toured through a fire mitigation project at the north end of Greenwood, and the students will be visiting the Vaagen Fibre mill in Midway next month to learn about where the trees and blowdown from the site go next.
The aim, the forest manager said, is to try and engage students more with forestry before they’ve chosen career paths.
“We need to start somewhere,” Macmaster said. “If we don’t put our foot forward and try to have that social outreach, that educational connection, then we are our forestry industry will have no communication with everybody else.”
Fred Marshall, a woodlot owner, educator and forestry consultant agreed, but noted at last week’s meeting that the push for outreach runs against a trend he’s observed.
“They had a program [here in Midway] and [students] came out every year from Kelowna” to visit tour Boundary forests, Marshall said, “but this has died.”
The gap Macmaster is aiming to bridge, Marshall said, is nothing new either.
“This has been around for a long time, this dichotomy between the guy who carries an axe and the students in the school now who all carry computers,” Marshall said. “It’s really hard to bridge that gap.”
Nevertheless, Macmaster said, “We need to make that connection. That gap right now is between forestry and the kids and that’s something that we will start to close.”
Ross Elliott, secretary for the community forest’s board of directors, also told those in attendance last Tuesday that grants and dividends paid out to both stakeholder municipalities Greenwood and Midway were down for the 2019 reporting year, compared with 2018.
In 2018, both municipalities took in just over $250,000; in 2019, both took an even $200,000. Grants funding was also lower in 2019, when the community forest gave $31,450 to local non-profits, half of the 2018 sum.