Submitted by Kerry Wood Nature Centre
There’s something for every interest and every age at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary and most of it is free! It really is a hidden gem in the heart of Red Deer. The story of the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary as we know it today begins with James and Elizabeth Wishart, who squatted on the land in early 1885 and built a small log cabin. They were followed closely by John Jost Gaetz and his mother, Catherine Gaetz, who stayed in the cabin when they arrived in Red Deer in the fall of 1885.
Michael Dawe, City of Red Deer Archivist, wrote: “J.J. Gaetz applied for a homestead and
pre-emption on what is now the south part of the Sanctuary and the Deerhome complex of
Michener Centre, while his mother applied in 1891 for a homestead on what is now the north
end of the Sanctuary.” To our benefit, the Gaetz’s had an extraordinary amount of foresight and appreciation for nature as they “decided to neither cultivate nor log any more land around the two oxbow lakes and along the heavily timbered slopes. As was the case with their home, they welcomed others to enjoy this area and to use it as a place for recreation and fun.”
Today, the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary is a unique place where nature and wildlife truly come first. Running, biking, skateboarding, rollerblading, cross-country skiing, and dogs are all prohibited from entering the Sanctuary—it is a place for walking and quiet contemplation, unlike any other in the city. When working with school groups, we often discuss how the word Sanctuary means a safe place, and that means we want to keep the animals safe, the plants safe, as well as the humans safe.
For families looking to connect with nature in a not-so-calm way, the nature playground adjacent to the building is a fantastic place to let loose and get dirty. There are trees to climb, buckets to fill from the water pump, and logs to hide inside. Some kids with keen eyes have even found the intriguing designs left behind by wood-boring beetle larvae as they eat their way through a piece of wood.
Inside the interpretive centre, visitors will find our newly renovated exhibits, the ever-changing Marjorie Wood Art Gallery (named after Kerry Wood’s wife, Marjorie), and the best place in town to buy birdhouses, feeders, seed, and unique nature-related gifts.
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