New developments will make the J.J. Collett Natural Area that much more enjoyable to explore as summer is right around the corner, staff say.
The annual general meeting was held May 1, and Foundation President Jack Surbey said that last year’s construction of 350 feet of a new boardwalk will be a particular highlight for visitors this season.
“We did get help from the government and from our sponsors as well,” he said, adding that plans are also taking shape to add pathways that would be wheelchair accessible as well.
The meeting also included a presentation by Myrna Pearman – a local biologist, nature writer/photographer, and former manager of the Ellis Bird Farm, he said.
“She had a whole bunch of pictures and I just want to say it was sensational,” said Surbey. “Everyone there just couldn’t believe the pictures that she had.
“She also talked about the different species of birds that are right here in our area,” he said. “You just have to go out and look for them. But you have to be patient.
“Her heart is sure in it.”
Plus, there was the announcement that Trail One has a new name.
“It will be called the Dr. Charles Bird Trail,” said Surbey. “We presented him with a plaque at the meeting, too. I have the signage, and we are going to put it up before our annual Spring Walk on May 28.
Bird, who is from Erskine, is certainly deserving of the honour, said Surbey. “There is quite a list of things that this man has done.”
The Spring Walk – a popular event that Surbey said helps to further introduce the area to the public – begins at 2 p.m. at the front kiosk.
There will be guided tours with local naturalists – including Dr. Bird – who will identify plants and wildlife against the backdrop of the spring season. “Charles points out a lot of insects, plants, and birds – whatever he sees when you are with him. He’s able to give you some details on it all.
“Generally, Charles leads one walk and then one of our board members will lead the other,” he said, adding that there will be refreshments and snacks following the walk as well.
JJ Collett Provincial Natural Area, located near Morningside, consists of 635 acres of Aspen Parkland.
According to the website, more than 18 km of maintained trails, “Wind through a mosaic of shrublands, aspen groves, stands of white spruce on moist shady hillsides, wetlands, and grassy meadows typical of the area.”
Sand dunes are also a unique feature of this area.
Meanwhile funding for projects comes from supporters who donate annually, fundraisers, the selling of Foundation memberships, and provincial grants.
The J.J. Collett Natural Area Foundation was established in 1985.
For Surbey, who joined the Foundation in the 80s and has been president for much of the time since, the area is of vital importance.
“I really like this area, and we want to preserve it. That’s the whole idea – preserve it for those who follow us. That’s what drives us,” he said, adding that often it’s an unexplored gem as well. He alternates attending the trade shows in Ponoka and Lacombe and finds it an excellent way to bolster awareness about the area.
“People will say they’ve heard of it, but they’ve never been there. Then they will go to it, and say it’s fantastic. It’s calming.”
For more information, head to www.jjcollett.com