With amazement, another year has come and gone but what’s even more amazing is the work we have achieved — with your help of course!
Take a moment with us, and reflect on just how much our communities come together to support each other and our environment.
The Camp Odyssey program experienced some highs and some lows in 2023. It was amazing to have returning staff on board, the new indoor and outdoor spaces were enjoyed by all — especially the splash parks and our trips to the Cranbrook Public Produce Garden — and the guest presenters, like Batty Patty, are an ongoing hit! Unfortunately, there were some challenges with inconsistent registration numbers and the level of smoke we experienced.
In 2024, we will be looking to create a more thorough smoke policy that goes hand in hand with great indoor spaces and lots of back-up indoor activities. Due to the inconsistent registrations, we will likely also consider increasing the number of camp weeks in Kimberley, while decreasing them in Cranbrook. With all that said, it was a great learning year for us and we’re looking forward to making improvements next year!
The field trips were historically consistent throughout the spring and fall semesters, with more trips taking place in the spring. A total of 23 classes participated in a mix of full and half-day trips for pond dipping, learning about rock cycles, and general outdoor explorations! Given the change in school district rules for student-to-adult ratios on water-based field trips, we were able to onboard two Wildsight Kimberley Cranbrook volunteers to join us making more field trips possible.
Looking into the new year, we do have concerns about the decreasing water levels and tightening of the school district field trip rules. It seems to be more difficult to provide water-based learning, but we’re hopeful as the teachers and students are still so excited to participate. We’re also looking forward to continuing an action project — cleaning up glass around the fire pit and benches — that was undertaken with ʔaq̓amnik̓ Elementary School grade 5/6/7s.
Forest and Nature School
Fall 2023 was our first term of Forest and Nature School. The programs originated with the Kimberley Outdoor Learning Society and became a part of Wildsight Kimberley Cranbrook in an effort to expand our year-round programming. There are opportunities for children from 0-12 years old to connect with nature while simultaneously learning from it.
The transition came with its challenges, but as we roll into the new year we are excited to streamline the programs and the registration process. With hopes of a permanent location on the horizon, our long-term goals include having permanent structures, an ability to learn about fire, and consistency of repeated exploration of space.
Between Pick and Press event volunteers, public interest events, tree owners, and equipment borrowers we had an amazing 380 people engage in the Apple Capture Program this year! It was great to have the Youth Climate Corps join us for some regular apple-picking shifts with all picking efforts resulting in a total of 2695lbs of apples picked and utilized, rather than being a wildlife attractant.
Next year, we really want to target getting those Cranbrook apples picked so we can mitigate the number of deer searching for food. We’re also on the lookout for a larger, more secure home to improve and expand our Tool Share program — think of how many other items we can share like sewing machines and lawnmowers!
Marysville Eco Park
The Eco Park has been self-sustaining due to our long-term management of the space. This year we only needed to host one weed pull event which helped us to continue nurturing our great working relationship with the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council. We were successful in completing the installation of the third and final picnic table, largely thanks to the help of one of our long-term volunteers and past board members. Additionally, one of the three table tops as well as the trim on the shed were sanded and re-stained.
Unfortunately due to a lack of communication with the City of Kimberley, many native shrub species were removed from the park, and, in their place, non-native shrub species were planted. This caused a hiccup with a plant information signage project we have been working on. For next year, our main goal will be to improve communication with the City of Kimberley and complete the signage project.
Early in 2023, we were fortunate to partner with Fraser Basin Council on their Co-Creating a Sustainable BC program and the Mount Baker Secondary School Outdoor Leadership class. Through these partnerships, we were able to host a full-scale event at Spooner Park that consisted of water education, weed pulling, prize giveaways, and a BBQ! We were so excited to see over 100 people join us at the park that we’re already planning next year’s event.
The park is beginning to become more manageable in terms of the burdock root overgrowth, so we’re starting to brainstorm the next steps in stewarding this park and growing our Cranbrook community.
As we continue our “small spaces” growing journey, we were grateful to have a more subdued and consistent experience this year. We successfully addressed challenges from last year related to heat/watering and wildlife damage, but that lent to new challenges of soil quality mismatch with specific plant varieties like peppers and potatoes. The more we grow, the more we learn!
We had a few yards withdraw from the program and added a new yard. This year we had a total of 11 backyards that held 18 raised beds and 1 in-ground bed that was approx 1000 sq. ft.! In the end, we were able to harvest close to 400 lbs of kale, onions, carrots, spinach, potatoes, beets, zucchini, squash, and beans to donate to our partner, the Healthy Kimberley Food Recovery Depot.
Our goals for 2024 include improving the productivity of our newer beds and experimenting with different vegetable crops, increasing volunteer participation, raising awareness about the productivity of small spaces by promoting household gardening and encouraging existing gardeners to grow and donate excess produce via the Plant a Row, Share a Row run through the Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank.
Kimberley Community Garden
The garden season for 2024 was an overall success, with the number of projects we were able to complete! Some of the projects included completing the construction of brick compost bins, installing a water capture system on the gazebo as well as an irrigation system, building a new garden shed within the footprint of the garden, and completing the first stage of a garden extension.
Regardless of the success of completing our projects, we weren’t able to donate as much produce as we had in previous years, a total of 25 lbs. There was an ongoing challenge with the pesky ground squirrels, especially as they ate everything when it was sprouting in spring. We also noticed an increase in public harvesting, likely due to the pressure of high food costs — but, at the end of the day, that’s what a community garden is all about!
As we look forward, we would like to rebuild the hugelkultur bed, replant the herb beds with new starts, recover the pathways with wood chips, and devise the ultimate ground squirrel defense system. We are also keeping our fingers crossed that the garden extension continues as planned as we intend to construct and plant a series of raised beds to increase the amount of food grown for donations.
Kimberley Farmers’ Market
Another good year, for another great program. We love the community connection that is created by hosting the Farmers’ Market and are always excited to see our neighbours supporting one another. With 55 unique vendors setting up throughout the 14 weeks of our summer season, we’d say it was a success — not to mention our second annual 2-day winter market in December, too!
This year we cracked down on our setup and takedown rules for an overall smoother outcome, not to mention fewer traffic jams, so that when the market opened everyone was at ease and ready to share what their small businesses had to provide. One of our favourite parts was listening to the wonderful musicians as they provided background music for the bustling conversations along Howard Street. Next year, we’re looking to improve the process for having the street signs to close off the street be more visible and refining the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program for further ease of use.
As with all things in life, we’ve had our successes and our challenges — one thing for sure is we’re looking forward to the growth that 2024 brings! At the end of the day (or year), we know we can’t achieve this impact without your contribution and support. Thank you for being by our side throughout our 2023 season and we can’t wait to see where we are this time next year.
If you want a reminder of what we achieved in 2022, check out this article.
Did one of these summaries pique your interest? We’re always on the lookout for new volunteers to help inform, educate, and shape our way. To receive more information, sign up here.