Across British Columbia, there are 50 nature clubs and societies with a membership totaling more than 6,000. On Vancouver Island, there are nine clubs and more than 1,500 members. Port Alberni is the only large community besides Campbell River, where no club is established. And that’s a pity.
Often clubs in BC contain knowledgeable, experienced, professionals in biology, geology, fisheries, forestry and so on. Therefore a club can be a source of education for kids. Learning about the natural world is an important part of a child’s education. This can mean first hand, opportunities in the field, to learn about frogs, and fish, deer all the other creatures that we share this world with.
An example from the Comox Valley is Comox Valley Nature, where they have a Nature Kids program, providing field trips for children. They also have provided a list to the Comox Valley School District of volunteer experts from the club who can speak to kids on topics in the curriculum. For home schooled kids this is a valuable resource.
Of course field trips are not just for children, but for the entire family or for adults only. And every club has field trips scheduled to points of interest, whether it is to see fossils, watch birds, witness wildflower displays, learn mushrooms, or scavenge along the seashore.
Clubs also are able to initiate and collaborate on community projects to enhance or restore ecosystems, through planting trees, putting up bird houses, creating viewing structures, signs and maintaining trails. Clubs are able to apply and receive grants to achieve these goals.
Nature clubs are often regarded as stakeholders in the community by local governments. This means being consulted on certain projects. Clubs also perform a certain amount of advocacy on behalf of land use decisions, such as protecting certain plants, trees, or habitat. For instance the property of Buttertubs Marsh was purchased by the Nature Trust of British Columbia in response to the community’s alarm at the possibility of housing developments filling this habitat. Now it is one of the most popular parks in Nanaimo.
Another example is how Comox Valley Nature held a conference on Courtenay’s new Urban Forest Plan and how ideas generated from the conference can be incorporated into the next Official Community Plan.
For many years, Arrowsmith Naturalists, in Parksville, have been acting as stewards of the Englishman River Estuary and earning Ducks Unlimited’s Community Wetlands Conservation Award in 2015.
Before the Covid-19 crisis swept over us, a group here in Port Alberni was starting a nature club. Out of a group of 20 who met at the initial meeting a group of seven volunteers were selected to act as a steering committee to get the club off the ground. Then everything stalled when the magnitude of the crisis was revealed. Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile to talk about what a nature club can do for the community, and to let people know that the club will be resurrected when society returns to stability.