A Gold River man known for his dedication to Strathcona Provincial Park has been named BC Parks Volunteer of the Year. Gerald Roberts won the award.
“As a non-profit society, we are always in need of good, reliable volunteer help, and after meeting Gerry in 1998 at one of our public events in Strathcona Park, we quickly realized we should ask him to join us as a director,” says Steve Smith, president/chair of the Strathcona Wilderness Institute. “Gerry loves Strathcona Park and knows it well, having hiked most of the trails there from his home in Gold River. Although his home is 140 kilometres from Courtenay, he immediately agreed to join our group and soon became a board member as well as the treasurer. This commitment meant usually attending a meeting once per month in Courtenay and other meetings in-between during the summer and winter months. “Initially our directors had concerns about the long drive he needed to make each time, but this was never an obstacle for Gerry. If our calculations are correct, he has only missed two meetings over the past 11 years. One was due to a car breakdown and the other was last year after his knee surgery.” Smith says that for the past 11 years Roberts has operated a “one-man” volunteer park information service for Strathcona Park visitors from a small hut (belonging to BC Parks) at Buttle Lake. “He gives good, reliable, up-to-date advice to visitors from all over the world as well as local people, and is becoming quite a celebrity.” Smith says Roberts, who’s in his 70s, goes the extra mile. “Because of the remote situation, Gerald is often a beacon for tourists with all kinds of questions and problems. He takes messages for visitors trying to connect with each other, or gives motorists gas if they are in need, and often helps visitors plan their day with safe and sensible suggestions for their hikes. He has on occasion actually taken stranded hikers to his own home to help out. “His good advice and his knowledge of Strathcona Park’s vast wilderness has probably saved many park ‘rescue callouts’ over the years — and probably lives, too!” Roberts also sells fundraising items for the SWI such as T-shirts, park maps and guide books. He also seems to have acquired a real knack in attracting visitors to give donations, which amount to a sizable figure by the end of the summer.