Last spring, the Red Deer River Naturalists (RDRN) — the oldest natural history organization in Alberta — launched a very exciting initiative to encourage people, especially the residents of Central Alberta, to get out and explore our own “backyard.”
Called Nature Central: Celebrating our Wild Alberta Parklands, the goal of the program was to identify and collect information about all the various protected areas near Red Deer, promote the respectful and non-consumptive enjoyment of these properties, and to promote environmental awareness by leading walks and hosting family nature programs.
We hired a young naturalist in residence (Shaye Hill) and an assistant naturalist (Sherry Scheunert) to do the work. I offered to be the volunteer liaison for the project, so it was my privilege to explore some of these beautiful areas and to participate in many of the interesting walks and events.
Since the properties are owned by various agencies (e.g., municipalities) and non-profit organizations (e.g., Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Fish and Game Association, etc.), it was important to ensure that the program complemented and complied with their land management protocols. All stakeholders welcomed our involvement.
To our surprise, the Nature Central team documented a total of 169 parcels of protected land within 100 km of the city, most of which are publicly accessible! All properties are listed on the www.naturecentral.org website.
The properties range from those that have facilities, parking and trails to parcels that are off the beaten path, have no trails or signage and require some navigation skills to access. Most properties can be visited on a drop-in basis, although access to properties owned by NCC needs to be booked through their website (www.connect2nature.ca).
The RDRN plans to continue and even expand Nature Central next spring and summer. We hope that more and more people will discover, explore and respectfully enjoy these natural gems that are in our own big beautiful backyard. If you would like more information about Nature Central, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Myrna Pearman is a retired biologist, nature writer, photographer and author of several books. Her books are available at www.myrnapearman.com. She can be reached at the address above or at email@example.com.