History of the Malaspina Naturalists

by Heather Harbord and Sherri Wretham, 14 April 2014.

Ann Clements started the club by writing an article in the paper suggesting a need for it, and inviting interested people to turn up to hear a talk on 18 March 1999 on “Feeding Wild Birds”.  The speaker was Bob Waldon of Alert Bay, who had written a book called Feeding Winter Birds in the Pacific Northwest.  Extra chairs were called for as those put out in the Recreation Centre’s room almost filled… and the club never looked back.

Originally called the Powell River Naturalists, the club changed its name in June 2001 to the Malaspina Naturalist Society to avoid confusion with the now-defunct Powell River Nature Society.  The latter started as a division of the club to raise money to build a Nature House but faded away due to lack of government commitment.

At the first executive meeting someone got up and wanted the group to organize a protest in support of creating a park at Myrtle Rocks but the members very firmly said no to all such activities.  The next year, during the formation of Millenium Park, three members resigned because they were afraid of a conflict of interest with their jobs.  The executive were embarrassed and became even firmer about being enthusiasts instead of advocates.  A few years later, a local branch of the Sierra Club was formed which took on the advocacy role.  Some people are happily members of both.

Right from the beginning, we had fun with great speakers who often led field trips the day afterwards.  Among them were Dr. Jim Cosgrove, author of  Super Suckers: the Giant Pacific Octopus, whose wife showed us a tiny opalescent nudibranch at Limekiln Bay, Dr. Wilf Scofield, who knew everything and everyone who ever worked on mosses, the Bear Man of Whistler, Michael Allen, whose visit sparked a Bear Aware program here,  Purnima Govindarajulu who knew everything about bullfrogs, Dr. Eileen Vander Flier-Keller who made the tectonic geology of Vancouver Island easily understandable, Sabine Leader-Menses, a marine biologist from Cortes Island intimately acquainted with low tide critters, and many more.

Mitlenatch Island has been such a popular trip that we’ve been so many time that the sea lions wave to us when we arrive on the schooner, Misty Isles.  The same boat took us twice to see the grizzly bears of Bute Inlet and to other places in Desolation Sound.  On our own two feet and four wheels, we’ve watched Purple martin chicks being banded and almost frozen our buns off counting birds at Christmas time.  We’ve hunted and eaten mushrooms with no ill effects and we’ve stargazed far into summer nights. We’ve welcomed the white Erythronium lilies and pink shooting stars in spring and marveled at the saprophytes of late summer and early fall.

Cookies and tea are served during the social half hour before monthly meetings in the United Church Hall.  Business is kept to 5 minutes or less and we have the shortest AGMs in town – 10 minutes max.  Dues, which started at $5, rose to $10 in 2002 and $15 ten years later, are mainly used to pay our speakers a modest honorarium.  Twice monthly e-mail messages keep members in the loop as only meetings are announced in the Powell River Peak.