Wells Gray Heritage Year already is a big deal. And it could be a major turning point in the history of the North Thompson Valley.
Upper Clearwater naturalist Trevor Goward and Thompson Rivers University dean of science Tom Dickinson have put together a distinguished list of speakers and lecturers to host the Heritage Year’s events.
Last fall they started with Dr. Cathie Hickson, the geologist whose work on the volcanoes of Wells Gray Park would be the central core of any application for UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the park. Subjects of other sessions included the fish of Wells Gray Park with forests ministry biologist Steve Maricle, the Upper Clearwater schoolhouse with former students Clara Ritcey, Hazel Wadlegger and Ellen Ferguson, a review of moose research done in the park with Frank Ritcey (son of moose biologist Ralph Ritcey), and an exploration of the trails near Third Canyon by Trevor Goward.
Those were just a warm-up for what is to come this year, from what Goward says. A finalized schedule of events and speakers will be released during the ceremony planned for Friday at 11 a.m. to officially start construction of TRU’s Wells Gray Wilderness Field Station near Upper Clearwater Hall.
Incidentally, the writer of this editorial advocated establishing a research and education center for Wells Gray Park when he was a reporter with the Times in the mid-1980s.
Until the list of names is nailed down Goward was reluctant to speak about it, except to say that Wade Davis will be just the first of several well-known personalities willing to contribute their time to Wells Gray World Heritage Year.
The series is expected to wind up with world famous wildlife artist Robert Bateman officially opening the wilderness center on Oct. 6.
Also part of Wells Gray Heritage Year will be the Harkayee Treasure Hunt. This activity will be based on a strange creature mentioned in the memoirs of the late Charlie Shook, a former Wells Gray Park ranger. Participants will have two levels of difficulty to chose from: one for families and the other for the more adventurous. Rules and the first clues for the treasure hunt will be released as part of Friday’s opening ceremonies.
Speak to the Wild in September will see several dozen well-known writers and scientists gather to collectively create a book about Wells Gray Park.
All in all, Wells Gray World Heritage Year should increase how much is known about the park, and how much that knowledge is shared with local residents and the rest of the world.
*Editor’s note: Following the ceremony on Friday, participants will join Wade Davis in an in-person conversation. Take a lunch, water and walking shoes for this once-in-a-lifetime event.