Column: Spring comes to Kejimkujik - wood ducks, park passes, Wi-Fi and all

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Allow me to congratulate Kejimkujik Superintendent Eric Le Bel for his and his staff's efforts in bringing to our park a national pass program set up for those whose lands were expropriated when the park was being formed in the 1960s. (I will get to the rest of the story about the Chicago swindler next week.)

People who live in the area sometimes encounter a residual bitterness over the way land was taken to create the park. The pass program will go some distance in healing those wounds, old as they are. Under the plan, people whose lands were expropriated can apply for a lifetime pass to the park, which will apply also to their children and grandchildren. They can enter the park for free for their lifetimes.

Le Bel told the Chronicle Herald that the fee exemption was a tool that would help the park reconnect with people who have a special association with the park. The newspaper interviewed Laurie Ford, Maitland Bridge, who lost land to the Park, and he was quoted as saying, "There was nothing anybody could do. They ran a line around it and that was that. They just took it."

The practice of expropriating land to create a park is no longer allowed. Parks Canada now buys the land it needs when it comes on the market.

Kejimkujik was also in the news last week when word came that Parks Canada was installing Wi-Fi in national parks. There was an instant furore, but in reality, it was a tempest in a teapot. The Friends of Keji has had a Wi-Fi connection at Kejimkujik for campers for some time now, without controversy. The hot spot has been in the so-called front country, in a building near the showers and it enables people to stay in touch with others. It is really no different than having telephones in the campgrounds.

Yet there was a controversy over the announcement, which applies to a number of parks across the country. The Toronto Star led off a story about the issue by saying that "the quiet solitude and refuge from the connected world that many Canadians yearn for will soon be no more in dozens of Canada's wilderness zones." Parks Canada will issue tenders to find a company to carry out the project.

A number of people went online to denounce the plan. One person wrote in to CTV news to say that we should just plough the environment under. Another said, Say NO to Wi-Fi. Another said that the vast majority of people were opposed to Wi-Fi in parks, but the writer failed to give evidence.

There were some good points made, however. One person wrote that Parks Canada was working to increase use of national parks, and that Wi-Fi had been a request from many. Another said that it was not the lack of Wi-Fi in parks that was keeping more people from using them, but rather the costs of using parks. Still another said that if something in parks should be banned, it should be generators. You could turn off Wi-Fi, but it is hard to shut out the noise of a generator.

Meantime, spring has come to Kejimkujik, and park superintendent Eric Le Bel has been recording its arrival. An excellent photographer, Le Bel posts pictures of spring's arrival on Facebook. The batch that came in as I wrote this included magnificent pictures of wood ducks by the lake shore, painted turtles climbing on a log, Canada geese arriving, deer grazing and more. Le Bel doesn't just work at the park, he is passionate about it, and makes a point of getting out into the park to see what is occurring in its natural world.

 *               *               *

 The Legion Hall in Caledonia was the centre of its known universe on a recent Sunday when a crowd of people gathered to celebrate the sixtieth wedding anniversary of Case and Riek van Dyk.

The large van Dyk family has been an important part of the life of Queens County ever since the young Case and Riek came to Caledonia from the Netherlands in 1954, and bought their farm in West Caledonia in 1957. It seemed as if the entire community had turned out for the occasion, with the visitors including Mayor Chris Clarke and Lunenburg Municipality Mayor Don Downe. Premier Stephen McNeil planned to attend, but had to satisfy himself with a long telephone call with Case the night before.

Case had a hard winter, with health issues, so it was good to see him sitting with Riek and smiling at the people who came up to wish him well. For those who don't know, Case and Riek are at the head of a family empire that is involved in a variety of agricultural and other enterprises in Nova Scotia. Case and Riek have nine children, and now have many grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Case has been inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame. His prominent agricultural activity today is the production of the award-winning Van Dyk Wild Blueberry Juice, sold in countries around the world. Made only from the best-quality blueberries, and containing nothing else but blueberries, the juice is produced by a process refined by Case to create great flavour and maximize the antioxidants, in a bright blue-coloured production facility on the West Caledonia Road.

 It is, in our humble opinion, the best juice one will ever taste.

 

- Tom Sheppard can be reached at twsheppard@gmail.com 

Organizations: Parks Canada, Toronto Star

Geographic location: Kejimkujik, Canada, Caledonia Queens Netherlands Nova Scotia West Caledonia Road

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