We met on a cool, bright afternoon, full of late autumn sunshine. I was quick to identify the reasons people had spoken such fond words about him as he greeted me in a crowded coffee shop, his hand extended, a yellow mug balanced in the other, asking me my name. The confidence David exuded did not deter my shock. After a few formal introductory emails, and information that I had clearly misunderstood, I realized my critical mistake: David was not a volunteer of the Pacific Spirit Park Society (‘the Society’) for seventeen years, but a volunteer of seventeen years. The next half hour would prove the biggest nightmare for any interviewer, as I was forced to abandon my premeditated questions. However, something equally lovely happened: I found myself not needing that hackneyed script and became increasingly curious about this high school boy who gave up a lot of his free time to volunteer.


David juggles his role as Volunteer Leader at the Society, events for Sea Watch, seasonal work at an Equestrian Farm in Southlands and is also the head sound technician at his high school, working in the technical aspects of theatre production. He has also applied for a scholarship with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks for youth leadership – something the Society would love to see David flourish in. As part of the leadership team for PSPS, David guides groups of volunteers, ensures they are handling tools safely and correctly, and helps them complete the day’s assigned task. The thing I found myself really wanting to know was why. Why come out every week, away from family and friends, to tramp around in a large, musty park? David, humble and obliging, said he started volunteering for the Society simply because it was something to do. Weekends for David in his early high school days had plenty of room to fill, and he explained further: “it felt nice to be part of an organization on some mission. I liked the stuff we were doing. I enjoyed the restoration and it felt like we were helping the park and helping people use the park.”

As our conversation continued, I discovered he was both clever and pragmatic.

“The Society has made some good choices,” he informed me, such as “making the tasks more and more large mission orientated as opposed to individual changes every day. It’s good for a low level volunteer perspective to see it as mission orientated.”

He was sitting in front me: layers and layers of blue like a cloudless sky, the combinations endless. The crystal blue of his eyes disappeared under long lashes, head bent forward over a sky blue buttoned shirt, accompanied by a baby blue puff jacket. When I heard David talk I thought of what it feels like to volunteer myself, this mix of purpose and fulfillment, time spent doing things you love, not needing monetary exchange to give it value. The value already inherent in the act.

“I think the thing with volunteering is the feeling you are doing something terribly important,” he said, voicing my thoughts, then bringing it back to the Park: “especially with the mapping and the water monitoring, because to me that feels like data gathering and helping research. Ecological restoration in all forms is valuable…we are collecting data and it feels nice that the data you are collecting is going in at least some capacity to someone to use for research purposes.”

I commended him on his efforts, telling him he is valiant in this altruistic attitude. He encouraged people to join the Society and described they had a few regulars but generally there was a high turnover of volunteers, the majority being made up of UBC (university) and St George (high school) students. The time commitment is understandably difficult, especially after people graduate. David is in his last year at Prince of Wales High. I asked him what he wants to do when he graduates and cringed: I hated getting asked this and remember only too well the mundane pressure, the desperate inability to forecast a career, the vultures that circle when you become too introspective. But David is looking beyond the local paddocks. He has eyes for East Coast or American universities that don’t require you to elect a Major until the second year, thus offering him greater freedom for a little while longer.

“Right now I’m sticking with a Math based focus,” he told me. “But I like the more social aspects of sciences as well: how it connects to policy. That interests me. I say Mathematics because I’m interested in it but it’s hard for me to rectify that with also liking governmental policy and how that is influenced by scientific thinking and research…That is one of the things I look forward to in university: the ability to explore different avenues. More so then anything else that is the most valuable thing to me.”

This clear articulation inspired in me a desire to have had David’s certainty around something that in its very nature is uncertain: the future.


Towards the end of our chat, when we were winding down, David said he had an interesting and useful story for me. I chirped in anticipation. And so he told me how he found out about the Society in the first place, in 2014, through a school tutoring program, Brain Boost. “I joined along for the day … removing ‘invasives’ and it stuck with me, and then I remember a year later I thought: ‘how could I get involved in that?’ I guess the message for that is I think it is valuable for some sort of involvement – trying to get schools to get out – I don’t know how viable that is. But I didn’t know it existed beforehand.”


He also gave me a new perspective, something I had not really recognizing before. He talked about how the new developments going up were more and more a reflection of the Park, tall wood buildings scaling to Vancouver’s big skies when the clouds weren’t sitting there, bellies full of rain. All that wood: the raw and the planed, the creaking and the polished. I loved the thought of how they could mirror each other, one side crafted by nature, the other side crafted by man. Even drinking our coffees we were surrounded by wood: the spirit of the park never far from our consciousness.

“It’s important for the UBC community. It really makes the whole UBC architecture work. A lot of the new architecture is very environmentally focused … new uses of woods. To a greater extent just the general feel of the UBC area and the greater Endowment Lands; I think the park is very important to its style. That’s what I like. I think I appreciate the Park first for just being there, almost, as opposed to being a bunch of residential buildings.”

I loved the small answer David gave me when I asked what his favorite thing about the Park was; apart from liking that it was maintained. Sometimes things are best when they are put simply: “it’s beautiful.

Written by Ruby Ewens

Photo: Andre-Phillip Picard

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Interview with PSPS Program Coordinator: Krista Voth

This week Chris Ma and Brady Sprague from Saint George’s Senior School interviewed Krista, the PSPS Program Coordinator. Here are parts of those interviews:

Chris: When you were an adolescent, what organization did you volunteer for? Did you do anything more than volunteering?

Krista: As an adolescent growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba I volunteered at a retirement home. I visited the residents and led bingo events. I really enjoyed getting to know many of the residents and hearing some great stories. Aside from my volunteer work, I did lots of babysitting in my neighbourhood.

Brady:  What animals do you notice in the park when you’re out walking?

Krista: Pacific Spirit Regional Park has a huge variety of birds because of the range of ecosystems represented. The wetlands, streams, forests, meadows and shorelines all provide important habitat for both year round resident birds and migrating birds. We also frequently see salamanders in the forests and salmon fry in the streams.

Brady: In your mind, what impacts do these animals have on the park?

Krista: The birds spread seeds throughout the park, which can have both positive and negative impacts on the park.   Birds help maintain native plant biodiversity and encourage forest growth when they spread native plant seeds.   However, birds also spread invasive plants seed throughout the park. That is one reason why it is so important for PSPS and local gardeners to remove invasive plants from the park and their yards.

Brady: What do you notice about the way people treat the park?

Krista: I notice that most people make efforts to care for the park by picking up after their dogs, reporting invasive plants or fallen logs, staying on the trail and not harvesting the vegetation. However, I see evidence that some people explore off trail, let their dogs off leash in environmentally sensitive areas or leave their dog waste along the trail. Even though only a small percent of park users don’t follow the park rules, it has a big environmental impact.

Brady: Why is it important to remove invasive plants from our parks?

Krista: Invasive plants have no natural competition in the areas where they are introduced. The pests, diseases and plant diversity in their origin country all help to keep nature in balance. When there are no diseases or pests to help keep the balance, these introduced plants spread very fast and take over large areas of the park. This reduces the amount of space, light and nutrients for other plants.

Chris: How can I contribute to PSPS if I do not have time to volunteer?

Krista: If you do not have time to volunteer, you can spread the word about the importance of park etiquette, such as staying on the trails, keeping dogs on leash in environmentally sensitive areas and cleaning up after your dog in the park.   Also donations are always welcome to help run our programs!

Brady: What keeps you motivated to continue helping the park?

Krista: Seeing the dedication and enthusiasm of the volunteers is the biggest motivation for me!


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Remembering with Gratitude

Pacific Spirit Regional Park was designated as a park in 1989 thanks to the hard work and dedication of many passionate individuals.  Dr. Richard (Dick) Stace-Smith was instrumental in the creation and planning for many Metro Vancouver Regional Parks, including Pacific Spirit and influential in the protection of the Camosun Bog.  It is with deep sadness and gratitude that we remember Dick and his contributions to conservation efforts in and around Vancouver.

Joan & Dick Stace-Smith         Dr. Richard (Dick) Stace-Smith

Dick was born May 2, 1924 in Creston, BC where he grew up and then went onto post-secondary studies to obtain his doctorate in Agriculture and a career with Agriculture Canada.

Dick is well known to many naturalists for his extensive volunteer contributions over more than half a century.  As president of the BC Nature Council in the 1960s, he led the formation of the Federation of BC Naturalists in 1969.  He served as FBCN president, as president of Vancouver Natural History Society, and as Conservation Chair for decades with the joint VNHS-FBCN Committee.  Dick also served as co-chair of the Fraser River Coalition and Resolutions Chair for FBCN (BC Nature), as well as a founding director for the BC Naturalists’ Foundation in 1990.  Dick passed away on January 17, 2017.  He was pre-deceased by his wife, of 64 years, Joan, in May 2015.

Dick is fondly remembered for his skills as a diplomatic meeting chair and coordinator for conferences and workshops, where he was always tactful and respectfully involved all points of view.

Celebration of Life for Dick will be held on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at West Point Grey United Church, 4595 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver, at 2 pm.  All welcome.

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Pacific Spirit Park Society would like to extend our gratitude for the funds and in-kind donations we received this year.  As a not-for-profit organization these generous gifts allow PSPS to run free high quality programs in Pacific Spirit Regional Park all year round.  

We truly could not do our work without you!









Under $1,000






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Once a horse stable

This fall PSPS planted over 2000 trees in a large restoration site along South West Marine Drive, in a site that was once covered in Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberries.

Why was this area so impacted by the spread of invasive plants?

The other week a park visitor came by to chat and mentioned that years ago the site held the horse stables for the milk delivery carts.  After the horse stables were no longer used, the site did not have any protection against the spread of invasive plants. If you have time, here is little video showing milk delivery with a horse drawn wagon in Vancouver many years ago.  Do you recognize any of the streets? My, how things have changed!

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Looking Back

Tom Nichols and the origins of Pacific Spirit Regional Park


The opening of Pacific Spirit Regional Park in 1989.  Tom Nichols is in the back row under the word “for” in the grey sweater. Photo: MV Archives

Current role in the Park: Ivy League Leader

Preserving the Park since: 1973, before it was a park!

Favourite trail in the Park for Cycling – Council Walking

Favourite trail in the Park for walking – Sword Fern between Marine Drive and Imperial.

Tom was a steward of Pacific Spirit Regional Park well before it became a park and remembers the days when the “trails” were old logging roads. In the 1950’s and 60’s the endowment lands were slated for residential development, which motivated concerned neighbours to advocate for the protection of the beautiful forest and its unique ecological, cultural and historical values. Tom joined the Endowment Lands Regional Park Committee in 1973 and worked with them for 16 years until formation of the Pacific Spirit Regional Park (PSRP) was finally announced on December 10th, 1989.

Tom’s work in the Park did not stop there. He volunteered with other members of the Endowment Land Regional Park Committee to be a presence in the Park until 1991 when Metro Vancouver (then GVRD) established their Park Association partnership in the Park.  Seeing the spread of invasive plants throughout the Park, Tom started tackling the English Ivy, which  grows along slopes and up trees, reducing the stability of the slopes and trees and threatening native plant biodiversity.

Even though Tom has been preserving the Park for over 40 years, he maintains a strong vision for the future. Tom is working with  Pacific Spirit Park Society and Metro Vancouver Regional Parks to develop an invasive plant management monitoring system which meaningfully measures the impact various invasive species have on the park in order to prioritize invasive plant removal. Further, Tom is looking at possible compensation restoration sites with the development of a new Metro Vancouver Pacific Spirit Regional Park works yard.

If you are interested in joining Tom at the monthly Ivy League event, email Krista Voth at or find us on Meet Up.

* Participants 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

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