History of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre

This year marks an important anniversary in our City’s history.

It was 30 years ago, in August 1986, that the Kerry Wood Nature Centre officially opened.

The KWNC is many things to Red Deer – a highly popular community and educational centre, the gateway to a unique wilderness area in the heart of an urban centre and a fitting tribute to one of Alberta’s most accomplished naturalists and writers.

The recorded history of the site goes back 130 years.

In the fall of 1885, John Jost Gaetz and his mother, Catherine Gaetz, took out adjoining homesteads on the northeast side of Red Deer. There were two beautiful small oxbow lakes on their land.

The Gaetz’s had a strong appreciation for nature. They made a decision to neither cultivate nor log the woods and wetlands surrounding the lakes. They also welcomed others to enjoy the area and to use it as a place for recreation and enjoyment of unspoiled nature.

The Alberta Natural History Society was formed in Central Alberta after the turn of the last century. The ‘Gaetz Lakes’ became one of their favourite spots for excursions. In the spring of 1922, the Society asked J.J. Gaetz to consider designating the west half of Section 22 as a bird sanctuary. He readily agreed.

Consequently, in June 1924, the land surrounding the Gaetz Lakes was officially designated as a Dominion Bird Sanctuary. It was the first place in Alberta to get such as designation.

The killing, hunting, capturing, injuring, destroying and/or molesting of migratory and game birds was expressly prohibited by the federal government.

One person who worked particularly hard to maintain and protect the Sanctuary was Edgar ‘Kerry’ Wood. He had been born in New York City on June 2nd, 1907 (i.e. 109 years ago tomorrow).

However, he had quickly made Red Deer and its natural surroundings his beloved home as soon as he moved here with his family in 1918.

Although Wood was still very young, he was appointed as a Dominion Migratory Bird Officer to help give some authority to his work in the protected area.

In June 1950, a party of City workmen left a fire unattended. It quickly spread into the Sanctuary. A group of volunteers, led by Wood, successfully fought to bring the blaze under control and to save the Sanctuary’s woods from destruction.

The incident made it clear that new and more stringent legal protections were needed.

Wood wrote a popular book, The Sanctuary, to publicize the incredible value of the site. Consequently, the provincial government was persuaded to designate the area as a provincial wildlife park.

Nevertheless, the threats continued.

In 1966, there was a proposal to turn the Sanctuary into an amusement park. Fortunately, a sustained public outcry killed the plans. In the early 1970s, a poorly maintained storm sewer created a large gully that caused heavy silting into the Second Gaetz Lake. Again, a public outcry led to attempts to control the damage.

In the early 1980s, comprehensive plans were made to include the area in the new Waskasoo Park. The Sanctuary was permanently designated as a nature preserve and wilderness area.

The Waskasoo Park planners felt that public education remained one of the best means of ensuring the survival of the Sanctuary in its natural state.

Hence, a series of walking trails were carefully constructed around the outer portions of the park.

Moreover, a natural history interpretive centre was constructed on an old hayfield on the north end of the First Gaetz Lake. There was no hesitation in naming the interpretive centre after Kerry Wood, as a fitting recognition of all of his work in saving the Sanctuary and educating the public about the enormous value of natural areas.

Today, the KWNC provides the public with information about the Sanctuary and the natural history of the region.

It also provides a central control point of access into the main part of the Sanctuary. The Centre is easily one of the most popular public facilities in Red Deer and across Central Alberta. It also provides a tremendous legacy for Red Deer and for many generations to come.

Just Posted

Women of Excellence Awards introduces ‘Women of Excellence in Construction’

Gala will take place June 19th at the Sheraton Red Deer

Check online to make sure you’re registered to vote in upcoming provincial election

Advance polls open Tuesday, April 9th to Saturday, April 13th

UPDATE: Christy Starling has been found

Red Deer RCMP thank the public for their assistance

Red Deer Legion Pipe Band celebrates National Tartan Day

The band is raising money for their trip to Scotland in 2020

Sharon and Bram head to Red Deer on final tour

The duo is celebrating their 40th anniversary farewell tour

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

New Leger polls suggests federal Liberals lagging Conservatives

Overall, 31 per cent of respondents polled said they would vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals

Teen girl accused in plot to attack Kamloops school with weapons out on bail

Judge warned the girl she would be back in jail if she threatened to shoot anyone

Oil prices, Alberta election call cloud Stampede chuckwagon auction expectations

The top money bid last year came from Versatile Energy Services, Ltd.

Lacombe hosts 6th Invasive Species Council Conference at LMC

Council looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

Pot industry welcomes decreased edibles tax, but unhappy medical tax remains

Taxes can increase the cost of medical cannabis by as much as 25 per cent

‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court

MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

Multiple MPs have resigned from Trudeau’s Liberal cabinet

Carbon tax, oil and gas investment dominate Day 2 of Alberta campaign

NDP pledges more oil and gas processing, UCP slams provincial and federal governments on carbon tax

Most Read