Caroline Thom, widow of the late Gerald, was at the ceremony on Aug. 17, delighted at the honour to her husband. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

New all-native-plant park in Lake Cowichan honours memory of Gerald Thom

Well-respected volunteer remembered in park close to the shore of the Cowichan River in Saywell Park

Lake Cowichan took time out to honour a hard working environmental dynamo during the recent 75th anniversary celebrations, dedicating the Gerald Thom Native Plants Memorial Park on Saturday, Aug. 17.

A group of friends and fellow volunteers has been looking for some way to honour Thom, who died in a tragic airplane accident a few years ago, for his hard work for the overall community.

The Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society’s Bee Greenway welcomed everyone to the brief ceremony.

“I’m very honoured to read the words that other people who knew Gerald better have put together for you. We’re here today to dedicate a new garden: the Gerald Thom Memorial Native Plant Garden. Last year, then-mayor Ross Forrest came to a meeting of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society with a proposal from the town council to dedicate some structure or element in the town of Lake Cowichan to the memory of our society’s founder and our beloved community friend, Gerald Thom.

“This was a generous and kind offer and we extend our heartfelt thanks for that. Who was Gerald Thom? [He] was the very deserving 2013 recipient of the Lake Cowichan Citizen of the Year. He was the first president of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society. He was a retired businessman and a landscaper. He was a new citizen to the area, moving here in 2008.

“He was the creator of the Cowichan Shoreline Stewardship project, which saw, over six years, 6,207 potted native plants planted on 39 lakefront properties around the lake, helping to prevent erosion and providing important fish and wildlife habitat. He was the spearhead of the 2013 Saywell Park Restoration Project in which volunteers removed blackberries and other invasive plants and replaced them with native willow, alder, dogwood and nine bark. If you look along the far side of the path, this whole riparian fringe between the lake and the path, that’s the project that was started at that point.”

Since then there have been a couple more efforts, coming along and weeding, a little bit of maintenance. But, by and large, what strollers see on the far side of the path is his project.

“He encouraged the town to use a state of the art wharf, floating above the riparian plants, allowing native plans to do their important water cleansing work unhampered by man’s structures,” Greenway said.

“Gerald believed that youth was our most important resource, always emphasizing the importance of engaging youth in the stewardship of the watershed. To this end there now exists a Lake Cowichan School Scholarship in his name, which recognizes and assists a deserving graduate who is pursuing an education in the field of environmental studies.

“Of course, Gerald also championed the annual river cleanup, now in its 11th year, which has become an entire river event, in connection with our watershed board.”

He was a likeable enthusiast, whose charm made others want to volunteer with him.

“This was Gerald on the outside. These are some of the easily reported and easily recorded contributions he made to our community. However, he made a deeper contribution and one that is fittingly honoured in this dedication today. Gerald believed in teaching by example and listening. Because of this he was able to build bridges with those of different belief systems, understood the ecological value of leaving the native plants on the lake edge, but he also understood that lakefront owners want to use their properties for recreational purposes,” Greenway added.

After the unveiling of the attractive sign, a crowd of people walked around the new park, checking out the plants and talking to members of the Stewardship Society.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley Regional District will reopen three arenas in August

Ice will go back in at Lake Cowichan, Cowichan Community Centre and Kerry Park

Business notes: Salt Spring Therapeutic Riding Association launches program for front-line workers

A sample of what’s happening in Cowichan’s business community

UPDATE: RCMP use spike belts to end car chase — man in custody

The driver was arrested at the scene a short distance from his vehicle

Motorcyclist airlifted after collision in Cobble Hill

Residents describe intersection of Telegraph and Hutchinson as “dangerous” and “problematic”

Tent Island closed due to neglect and abuse from campers

Illegal campfires common on Penelakut Tribe reserve land

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Canada vows retaliatory measures as Trump restores tariff on Canadian aluminum

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Island youth starts virtual race against racism

Cailyn Collins says people can take part in the cause from anywhere

COVID-19 tests come back negative for remote First Nation

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Most Read