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Forest Mist

History of the Club

The First Ten Years
by Terry Bradt

In order to record the club’s history, Charlie Christy was contacted in January of 2017 to get his opinion on how the ball got rolling.
According to Charlie, he and Fred Werner got together at the Bancroft Pentecostal Church and talked about starting a naturalist club. Fred talked to Steve Wilkins (MNR) and he arranged to get Ernie Martel (Algonquin Park) and set up an introductory meeting. The rest of the story I was able to get from our archives that were kept religiously by Kathleen Postance.
The first meeting to discuss the formation of the local naturalist club for the Bancroft area was held June 10, 1997. The meeting was chaired by Ernie Martel, retired Superintendent of Algonquin Park.

At that time, the MNR was forming Stewardship Councils and wanted representation from local

interest groups to sit on these councils (personal comment).
As a result of that meeting, an interim executive was formed which consisted of:
Charlie Christy – Chair
Linda Brockley – Vice Chair
Pat Potter – Secretary-Treasurer
Barb Clarke – Membership Chair
Irene Darling of the Highlands Field Naturalists was also invited to that meeting and suggested 
that the new club should form a permanent executive and join the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. When this was done the new club formed a Constitution similar to other affiliate members of the FON (1998).
Before the club was formed, Gerry Whyte had been making and installing bluebird houses and this became one of the focuses of the club. Another focus became the formation of trails at the town owned Eagle’s Nest Park.
Even before the club was formed, Charlie Christy had been an avid birdwatcher and had visited various hawk watch sites and thought that one could be built at Eagle’s Nest Park.
Local history books relate how a child was almost carried away by an eagle. Some research by
Bruce Collins revealed that Golden Eagles nested on the cliff face at what is now known as 
Eagle’s Nest Park. Apparently, the eagle’s nest was destroyed by lowering someone over the edge of the cliff. There have been no reports of Golden Eagle’s nesting here since although Bald 
Eagles have rebounded since DDT was banned and there are Bald Eagle’s nests being found in the Bancroft area, see Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas efforts (2021-2025).
On September 30, 1997, the first club newsletter was published by Ruth Turner and monthly meetings were scheduled.
Their first Christmas Bird Count was held on December 21, 1997, and results were published in the Bancroft Times.
Early meetings were held in the Bancroft Public Library and many venues have since been used. Elections for a more permanent executive were held on March 15, 1998. The results of that meeting were:
Charlie Christy – President
Jeremy Inglis – Vice-President
Pat Potter – Secretary
Ruth Turner – Treasurer
Monthly Newsletters were published by Jackie Lewis.
As of Thursday, April 9, 1998, meetings were moved to the Pentecostal Church and regular nature related columns were published in the local paper by Dan Boileau. Club events included regular outings, monthly speakers, bird/bat house building, Christmas Bird Counts and trips to Presqu’ile Park, Amhearst Island, Algonquin Park and the Eagle’s Nest Park.
In September, 1998, the club held their first annual Eagle’s Nest Hawk Watch and the idea started to develop to build a viewing platform.
In May,1999, a Junior Naturalist’s Club was started Linda Brockley and meetings took place at the Bancroft Public Library.
Also in May,1999, some members started writing a proposal to fund a project which would include new and longer hiking trails and a Hawkwatch Platform with an interpretive display and other displays of natural features.
Further developments on this project took place during a meeting in January 2000 between Jeremy Inglis, Barry Wannamaker, Steve Wilkins, Fred Werner, Charlie Christy and Pat and Chuck Potter to discuss the planning and financial aspects of the Eagle’s Nest Project.
As of September 2000, all copies of the BFNC newsletter were being published in the Cardiff Courier. The Junior Naturalist Club was meeting on Tuesdays at the river park (Millenium) with Graham Cameron and volunteers.

By September of the following year, a fundraising Wild Game dinner was being planned to raise money for the Eagle’s Nest Project.
Construction began on the Hawkwatch Platform in the fall of 2001. Key partners in the
community effort included:
- The MNR through Biologist Kathy Irwin and Wildlife Specialist Mike Michel
- The Bancroft Area Stewardship Council
- Steve Wilkins and Brenda Burnes
- The Bancroft & Area Chamber of Commerce
- The Bancroft Youth Partners and Patricia Reilly
- Bancroft Rental
- Wilson’s Timber Mart
- Jan Woodlands
- Freymond Wood Products
- Town of Bancroft
- The Bancroft Field Naturalists
- Local Engineer, Frank Anrep
The Wild Game dinner and Silent Auction were held February 2, 2002, at the Bancroft Fish and Game Clubhouse, with Professional Chef, Mark Loesher. The dinner and auction raised about $1,800 toward the Eagle’s Nest Hawkwatch project.
Thank you letters and emails were sent out to all the organizations and businesses that made the dinner and auction a success and for the money raised for the Eagle’s Nest Project.
The weekly meetings of the Bancroft Junior Field Naturalist Summer Program were funded partly by BFNC, wages paid by the Bancroft Stewardship Council and fees paid by the parents.
As of May 2002, the BFNC had been award $17,000,00 by the Living Legacy Trust. This allowed
work to finish on the Hawkwatch Platform as well as completing a nature interpretive trail system.
The official opening of the Eagle’s Nest Park developments was held July 19, 2002. The  Hawkwatch Platform is visited by thousands of people every year but especially during the fall colour display.
A Birds of Prey show was highlighted at the official opening of the Hawkwatch Platform. The ribbon cutting ceremony was performed by Leona Dombrowsky, M.P.P. for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington.
A metal information sign was finally available and mounted near the upper parking lot at Eagle’s Nest Park on September 17, 2004.

Also in 2004, two local Environmental Activists, Pat & Chuck Potter, were presented with an Environment Award for the many projects they had been involved with since 1974.  They were both BFNC members and became quite well-known for the house they lived in that was made of tires.
Another valuable member of our club, Kathleen Postance, received recognition for her efforts as a Nature Network Representative from the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (Ontario Nature) May 15, 2004?
A great interview with Gerry Whyte, long time member of BFNC, was published in the Aug/Sept 2004 issue of The Highlands Courier. This paper was published by Stewart Smith and the interview was done by Patricia Reilly, both BFNC members.
In October 2005, new benches were installed on some of the trails at Eagle’s Nest Park. The benches were made from Hemlock logs mounted on cement and steel. Nature interpretive signs were also installed the same way. These lasted for about 8 years but the Hemlock finally rotted and lettering on the signs gradually disappeared.
The signs and benches were designed and built by member, Terry Bradt, with help from club members. Before the signs and benches could be installed, some trails had to be relocated because the old ones had been encroaching on private property.
On December 19, 2007, Gerry Whyte was recognized by the Bancroft Area Stewardship Council,
among others, for “responsible resource management and stewardship” in the community. Over the years Gerry had built and installed thousands of Bluebird Nesting boxes, feeders, Bat houses etc.
This writeup concludes the first ten years of the Bancroft Field Naturalist Club. Charlie Christy was President from 1997 to 2003?, and then Betty Coutu from 2003-2013?

Stay tuned for more!

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