Kiyooka land now protected conservation area

There are Jasperites who will remember Frank and Ann Kiyooka for their gifts to education and to the arts.

Many others will now know of their gifts to the world and environment.

Their 72-acre property is now home to a new conservation area, thanks to the Kiyooka Land Trust. The late couple loved the beautiful spot along B.C.’s Fraser River in Tête Jaune Cache for its natural beauty that provided a wonderful wildlife habitat. They wanted the land west of Valemount to remain natural and protected, and that its natural and human history would be recognized while also serving as a community resource.

“They always valued land just for itself,” said their daughter Hanae Kiyooka who grew up there.

“They bought that property in the early ‘70s. Over the course of the time that they lived there, in fact, the land just kept going back to more and more of its natural state because they left it as it was. If they did anything, they added trees. They were both very conscious of land and its value for wildlife, and its importance just to be kept intact.”

Ann and Frank’s long-term vision is now a reality. Since they passed, the family pooled their resources to purchase the land and turn it into the Kiyooka Land Trust. Keeping it as a local grassroots effort allows them to stay involved with the project that they care so deeply about.

There are many reasons to care deeply about this land, Hanae said. Sitting in the Fraser’s floodplain, it’s home to a combination of wetland with old growth forest and a wet meadow system. One of the land trust’s board members is a biologist who sees many micro-ecosystems on the property.

And there are animals. Hanae called it a crossroads for lots of wildlife, a place where animals would pass through to get down to the river from the higher areas.

With all that, the land trust also wants people to use the land. The six-part vision starts with land conservation, but also strives for the preservation of natural and human history, with environmental stewardship as priorities.

In addition, the keepers of this land hope to offer educational opportunities and offer an arts community venue and sustainability workshops.

The property still has the original dwelling on it, with Frank’s old pottery studio attached to it.

“The house, we hope, will be a place where people can come and learn about environmental issues, learn about how to live more sustainably,” Hanae said.

“Also, I really feel strongly that human beings – the reason we're in this state in the world – is mostly because of how we've treated the land. To look after human beings’ well-being is a very important piece for looking after the rest of the species and the land.”

They also hope to engage more with Indigenous people of the area in a respectful way that builds relationships with them.

The Kiyooka Land Trust Foundation hopes to host an event in May to celebrate this new beginning before it begins offering programs.

At the moment, Hanae is already feeling how close the spring is and the rebirth that comes with it.

“We're at a point, I think, at a juncture in our world where this is what we need: that the earth is crying out for help,” she said.

“I can get quite down on the state of the world and feel a lot of despair, but this particular project, which is so concrete, is just a light in my day. Here's something tangible that I can do that feels good for the planet’s future and for my children's future and all children's future.”

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh