Fred McMechan has been president of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists club, the group who runs Scout Island, roughly as long as Scout Island has existed in the form it is today.
Now, 40 years later, the long-standing president is retiring from the board, citing some health concerns.
“I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always thought it was very worthwhile to work down there and also, of course, to assist with the club itself. I’m accepting of it and I think I have served fairly well and it is time for others to take over.”
In the early 70s, the Scout Island property was purchased by the Nature Trust of BC to be conserved as a nature area. In 1977, the Field Naturalists took on running the property, starting properly in the winter of 1978, said McMechan.
McMechan has been around as president since that time.
“What we had to do was start planning. We had to develop trails there, bridges and walkways: the Island Trail, the Willow Trail,” he said. “A lot occurred in the first few years after we took over. The first important thing was opening up the nature house and making it into a nature interpretive centre.”
From there, Scout Island has become one of the most beautiful and accessible nature areas nearby to Williams Lake, and, over the years, has run a variety of programs, from a nature pre-school, to nature Kindergarten, spring and summer break experiences and other activities to bring people outside into nature.
“It’s the opportunities by children and families and public to learn about nature and appreciate nature and have the opportunity to have this place for this community,” said McMechan. “There is no doubt about that and of course, over the years, we have tried to keep the place available for the public for a number of people who come down to do nature walks or participate in educational programs that are provided down there.”
He says the co-operation between the City, the field naturalists and the Nature Trust of BC has always been important in turning Scout Island into what it is today.
“We’ve done a lot of work to look after this place, whether it is developing accessibility for people, or whether it was the planting of native species,” he said. “There has been a marked improvement in the opportunities for people to enjoy that place.”
He hopes that it will continue that way in the future — as a place for educational opportunities and for people to get outside to discover nature.
“I think it is wonderful to see kids outdoors and participating in activities outdoors and learning more outdoors than they do in classrooms in many cases.”
McMechan said that he is happy with the ability Scout Island has had over the past 40 years to educate and inform.
“It is so significant that people learned about the natural history of the area, had an opportunity to be active in our natural world, and also, of course, to provide educational opportunities especially for children, that has been our real focus of course.”
While the naturalists have had some troubles finding someone to take up McMechan’s mantle, they’ll be selecting three people to share the duties of the president this year, with the hopes of finding someone to take it on in future years. McMechan promises he’ll also be around to help, staying on the board as past president.
“We are still going to be searching for a person who might come on that has the talents and the desire to take on this position,” said McMechan.
“Sue Hemphill will be continuing on as our executive director, and of course she does an outstanding job,” he said.
“I’m just hoping that we end up with very good people to look after this place that many in our community appreciate.”
Scout Island has many upcoming events planned, starting with a free presentation on the illegal tortoise and turtle trade presented by Chris Sheperd, on April 11 at 7 p.m. in the nature house.
It will be followed by the Scout Island Nature Banquet, an annual event set to take place April 20 at the United Church Hall. The highlight of that event will be a talk by Rob Higgins on the bugs, good and bad, of B.C.
Tickets for that event are $40 for adults, $15 for students and are available at the Open Book, the nature house, and from members of the club.