'Force of nature,' two groups from Denman, Hornby nominated for awards

DENMAN ISLAND RESIDENT Peter Karsten is nominated for an Islands Trust Stewardship Award. In a news release, the Islands Trust called him
DENMAN ISLAND RESIDENT Peter Karsten is nominated for an Islands Trust Stewardship Award. In a news release, the Islands Trust called him 'a force of nature.'
— image credit: Photo submitted

Two industrious groups and one outstanding individual from the Comox Valley have been nominated to receive this year’s Islands Trust Community Stewardship Awards.
The Hornby Quilter’s Group and Denman Islands Residents Association are amongst four groups being considered for a Community Stewardship Award, whilst Denman resident Peter Karsten’s accomplishments are being weighed against those of 13 other individual nominees.
Recipients will be awarded a small plaque and certificate in recognition of their contribution towards the object of the Islands Trust (the protection and preservation of the Gulf Islands) once the winners are decided in June.
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The Islands Trust describes Karsten as “a force of nature.” Although his work as an artist, environmentalist, and former CEO of the Calgary Zoo also speak to Karsten’s appreciation of the natural world, Karsten’s nomination is based on his most recent initiatives.
The man whom the Islands Trust pronounces “an inspirational leader, a doer, a creative person, an educator and a tireless worker” plays an active role in both the Denman Island Residents Association and Denman Island Conservancy Association. Karsten serves as director and Co-Chair of the Denman Conservancy Association and chairs its Outreach Committee.
To conserve and support the recovery of Purple Martins, he organized a tour of his aviaries, educational talks, an art sale (featuring his own artistic creations) and built/installed new birdhouses. An international expert in breeding endangered birds (especially the endangered Pekin robin), he also mentors children in this and other nature projects.
In addition to his work with the Denman Conservancy Association, Karsten also serves on the Denman Island Residents Association’s Park Committee and Wildlife Advisory Committee; he liaises with the Denman Island Residents Association, Comox Valley Regional District and BC Parks.
Karsten claims a “very strong passion for connecting people with nature.” He suggests, with a chuckle, that we need to “pull the kids away from the computers” and “discover” the natural world.
“The best friend you can have in life is nature,” says Karsten, and “it doesn’t ask much of you.”
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Nominators feel that the Denman Island Residents Association (DIRA) — established more than 40 years ago “to consider and further the interests and general welfare of the residents of Denman Island” — is also connecting people to nature.
The Islands Trust agrees the DIRA’s Park Committee volunteers have “enhanced opportunities for residents and visitors to explore the natural beauty of Denman” by playing an instrumental role in “establishing park facilities in two Comox Valley Regional District Parks.”
The parks to which they refer are Morning Beach and McFarlane Road (now Maple) Parks. One of few sandy beaches on Denman, Morning Beach had been solely accessible to “people who were fit,” laments Karsten.
But the installation of a 103-step staircase and trail now increase public access to the park whilst protecting the sandy, sensitive incline from further foot-generated degradation.
The Parks Committee simultaneously undertook a second project to open McFarlane Road Park (whose name was later changed – upon the committee’s suggestion – to Maple Park by the Comox Valley Regional District).
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The Hornby Quilter’s Group has also improved the lives of Gulf Islanders. The project was originally conceived as a fundraiser for the Hornby Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association by Eleanor Laffin and has run for 36 years.
Involving hundreds of volunteers for the benefit of more than 60 non-profit organizations, the Hornby Quilter’s Group has raised $252,000 since its creation (an average of $7,000 per year).  Islands Trust commends the group for raising funds for Hornby Island non-profit organizations while “raising awareness of the goals and aspirations of community organizations.”
The quilters put a modern twist on the traditional quilt process by selecting a theme for each of its projects. The 1978 quilt, for example, depicted Island wildflowers; this year’s quilt will feature water, the essential element.
The Islands Trust says that funds raised in 2012 will benefit both the Hornby Water Stewardship Project and the First Edition, a free community newspaper “aimed at keeping residents informed about issues affecting them.”
The quilting group attracts an eclectic collection of participants and supporters from across Hornby. Twenty-five to 30 people gather each year to create thematically relevant squares before a second, smaller group assembles to stitch the work together.
The Islands Trust contends that interactions between quilters, ticket sellers (who make sales between June and September) and the public, “offer wonderful opportunities to generate awareness of island issues, foster appreciation of island life and promote protection of the island.”

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