On my very first day at the Preserve, I met someone.
It was a beautiful, cold and sunny February day and I was engrossed in a solitary stroll when a car drove up and stopped beside me. Since the Preserve was closed, and I was new, I was definitely surprised.
The driver introduced himself and promptly launched into a series of stories and ideas.
Amidst the flurry of information, details of the conversation have faded over time. One part, however, has always stayed with me. In a tone I remember being both informational and instructional, Danny Nowlan told me that “this place” had been established for kids.
Midway through the summer, and our inaugural Nature Camp, I have been reminded of that day on several occasions. Getting to experience so much Yukon – its animals, birds and plants within such a diverse, yet accessible environment — offers the coolest opportunities for kids.
Over the past several weeks, campers have been moving throughout the Preserve, taking advantage of every opportunity. There have been crafts and games, costumes and a bevy of activities based around each week’s theme.
Our Bird Week campers, for instance, got to birdwatch, to learn about bird habitats and about the nesting boxes at the Preserve. The result was meticulously made chocolate and pretzel nests and beautifully painted nesting boxes, half with the message, “Mountain Bluebirds Only”.
Through my open window, I can always tell when some activity is bringing campers near our offices. In that rapid and emphatic way that kids talk when they are excited, I have much enjoyed hearing their stories and discoveries.
I have been regaled with tales of role-playing (habitat games), observing frogs (in the pond) and innumerable recollections of an animal doing something. If there had ever been doubt, their shrieks of laughter provide assurances that all this learning is pretty darn fun.
But in some ways, the quiet moments have touched me the most.
Almost daily, individual campers can be found sitting quietly observing the sheep near our offices. The opportunity to sit and stare at how the “family” interacts, watching as the ewe feeds her lamb, as the two lambs play and cajole and gain confidence in conquering the rock, brings forth expressions of awe, amusement and admiration.
That same, intense observation was witnessed when Babies Week included the opportunity to meet some of our rescues. As our animal care assistant, Daniel, fed a robin and a squirrel, campers watched intently.
While jostling a bit for a better view, they peppered Daniel with questions about the technique of feeding individual animals, the types of food, the injury. They wanted to know what happened, what brought it here and just what is a Conservation Officer?
But when I think about it, I see situations every day that exhibit Danny Nowlan’s dream for “this place”.
There was the very proud (and tired) Liam who successfully biked the Preserve with his Mom, and a group of toddlers who walked right by our lynx to play “orchestra” with a cello-shaped log.
There were the nearly 1,000 students from the Yukon, France and Ontario who descended on the Preserve over the course of a month for school programming, and the young kids in one of those classes who brought donations to help us with our rescue program.
I recall an evening not too long ago, when I held up antlers for innumerable photos, as every child in the group had their turn pretending they were a moose or an elk. But then I remember, when the Outdoor Writers of Canada visited us recently, they took many of those same antler photos.
From that very same office window, I have observed that look of awe on the faces of visitors of all ages, and that same amusement over the antics of some animal.
The truth is, this place really is for kids. But when I think of it, this place was built not only for them, but also for the kid inside all of us.