Saanich Naturalist Program facilitator, Kristine Heilmann. Saanich Recreation photo
What captivates Kristine Heilmann about the natural world outside her door? “It’s the interconnectedness and sheer complexity of nature, and how we’re all part of the natural world around us,” she reflects.
The local naturalist is leading the Saanich Naturalist Program, a new registered activity kicking off Sept. 6 at Mount Tolmie Park. A hands-on exploration of what nature has to offer in Saanich, the six-session adult program continues Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 11.
Topics up for discussion include ecology, geology, invasive species, botany, ornithology, ethnobotany and more.
“Each week we’ll visit a different Saanich park and focus on different aspects of natural history, from the bedrock under our feet to the birds in the sky,” Heilmann says.
Other parks to be explored include Glencoe Cove Kwatsech Park, PKOLS (Mount Douglas Park), Knockan Hill Park, and Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, representing the breadth and diversity of the Saanich landscape. “From the top of Mount Tolmie to the coast, there’s an amazing amount of diversity in Saanich,” Heilmann says.
Developing our Natural Intelligence
Heilmann moved to the region five years ago and was amazed by the amount of parks, both in Saanich and beyond.
“I wanted to learn more about them and was looking for an adult program but couldn’t find one, so I decided to make one,” she says. “My hope is that if there’s enough interest, we’ll be able to grow it into something bigger.”
The program supports Saanich’s efforts to promote Natural Intelligence – the idea of respecting nature’s gifts and the understanding that by taking care of nature, nature takes care of you.
While Heilmann will facilitate discussion, she wants the sessions to spur discussion amongst participants, who may have their ‘From bedrock under our feet to the birds in the sky,’ nature program explores Saanich parks own areas of interest and expertise, such as birds, insects or native plants, for example.
“I want to make sure this is a place for people to meet and learn from others,” she says, noting the goal is to make information accessible to all who are interested in the natural world. “You start from wherever you are and grow from there.”
Heilmann hopes that through opportunities like the Saanich Naturalist Program, participants might get excited to learn more, delve deeper or even take action, by volunteering for a stewardship program, for example. She reflects on the words of conservationist and outdoor enthusiast Aldo Leopold: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Participants are encouraged to wear good hiking shoes and to dress for the weather. Registration for the Saanich Naturalist Program is $90 for all six sessions. Learn more by viewing the Saanich Fall Activity Guide at saanich.ca/fall.