Norm Harburn, GaLTT’s fifth president (2014-2016)

Like so many islanders, Norm Harburn and his wife Beth Vogel began visiting Gabriola decades before they retired here in 2010. Norm’s professional background was in Natural Resource Management, and for fifteen years prior to retiring he’d been head of The Parks Foundation in Calgary. Given his environmental awareness, love of natural history and belief in the health benefits of recreational trails, when he first encountered the GaLTT information table at the farmer’s market, Norm knew he’d found an organisation he wanted to be a part of. He recalls being particularly impressed by the trail map. Norm says he was “so glad to know [GaLTT] even existed,” and he immediately became a member.

Norm served as GaLTT’s fifth president, from 2014-2016, but stresses that this role is very much about collaboration and continuity—that each president and board build upon the work of the previous and anticipate its continuation with incoming leadership.

Norm recalls being surprised by how much of Gabriola is privately owned, and while many of the trails on private land have long been unofficially used by the community, he expresses appreciation to his predecessor John Peirce for establishing trail licences and thus helping make many of these historic pathways “official.”

In 2014, while staffing the GaLTT table at the the farmer’s market, Norm got chatting with UK resident Harriet Thomas, who had bought 50 acres of land she called Haven Woods in honour of The Haven, the place that had first brought her to Gabriola and whose work she greatly valued. When she learned about trail licences, she offered to sign a licence and invited GaLTT to expand the property’s trails.

It was also during Norm’s tenure that GaLTT was invited to comment on a significant opportunity for the acquisition of parkland through the Official Community Plan’s density transfer provision. Increasing parkland is one of GaLTT’s key mandates, so after careful consideration of costs and benefits the Board endorsed the proposal that eventually added 336 acres to the previous 707 and an additional 40 acres of parkland and trails to Cox Community Park near the medical clinic.

Another notable event was GaLTT’s role in helping Mudge Island acquire a beautiful oceanfront property for a community park (Dodd Narrows). A group of residents had raised some money towards its purchase but needed further support and thus approached GaLTT, which was able to offer some additional funding and also help make the case to the RDN that the Ling Cod Lane property should be purchased for a park, which the RDN voted to do in the fall of 2016.

Beyond the acquisition of parkland and trails, Norm’s favourite recollection involves the installation of Gabriola’s first metal pedestrian bridge, on federal lands just outside Joyce Lockwood park. The bridge was the vision of engineer and longtime board member and organizer of trail building and maintenance, Randy Young. It was brought to the park entrance on a big truck, but couldn’t be driven in or lifted mechanically into place. And so, Norm recalls putting out a call to the community, asking for a few strong folk to come help out, and at the appointed hour, dozens of people turned up—far more than they’d hoped for. With community spirit, the bridge was hoisted onto shoulders and carried in to location (where, perhaps, a celebratory bottle of champagne was popped!). A brass plaque on the side of the bridge honours Randy and his wife Lynne, also a longtime and vital member of the trail committee.

A closeup of a metal plaque on a railing. The text says, "The Randy and Lynne Young Footbridge, GaLTT 2015".
Two people standing on a wood and metal footbridge.
Randy and Lynne Young on the bridge named after them.

Over the years Norm has helped out on various GaLTT walks, including the annual end-to-end trek. As he reflects on the importance of GaLTT, he notes that the organisation serves a community that values the healthy benefits of maintained trails and the conservation of the island’s natural history and beauty. He is confident that as GaLTT moves into its third decade, it will continue to flourish on a well-established path.

We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a series of posts capturing the reflections and perspectives of GaLTT past presidents. Thanks so much to Trish Matson for conducting the interviews and writing these articles. Watch for more in coming months!

Tags: , , Categories: History, NewsPublished On: June 2, 2024

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