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Vernon student protects provincial park for school project

For her capstone project, Maggie Wiltse organized an event to remove pine tree ingrowth from Kal Park
For her capstone project, Vernon high school student Maggie Wiltse organized a volunteer clean-up crew to tackle pine ingrowth in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, thereby protecting the park from the threat of wildfires. Wiltse’s clean-up crew rid the park of flammable materials on June 9 and 10, 2023. (Maggie Wiltse photo)

A Vernon high school student has used the opportunity presented by her capstone project to protect Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park from the threat of wildfires.

Maggie Wiltse is a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Kalamalka Secondary School. When considering what to do for her capstone project, Wiltse’s mind went back to previous wildfire seasons, including one that put her home on evacuation alert.

“I know people who have lost their houses (to wildfires),” she told The Morning Star. “My thing that I wanted to focus on was reducing the fire risk in Kal Park, because last year it was the worst I’d ever seen it.”

Wiltse partnered with BC Parks to create a volunteer event focused on removing a pine tree ingrowth around the Cosens Bay area, in an effort to reduce flammable materials in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.

The two-day event took place June 9 and 10. Students at Kalamalka Secondary, school district employees and members of the public put on gloves and took up pruners and got to work removing the little pine growths that had popped up throughout the park.

“(The pine growths) are hidden in the tall grass right now, but if you see them you start to pick them up almost everywhere,” Wiltse said.

In addition to removing flammable material from the park, she said her project will also make more room for native plant species to grow and thrive.

Her project went over well among her teachers, especially her careers teacher.

“People come to him with these ideas for their capstone that are big and he tells them to make it smaller, and he didn’t do that with mine, which I’m actually really happy about, because I’m happy that it’s such a big thing.”

Wiltse thanked Vernon Home Depot for providing brand new gear for the pine growth removal, gear that will come in handy next year when Wiltse hopes to repeat the forest clean-up event. Home Depot also brought food and water to volunteers at the event.

Wiltse also thanked BADA Bathrooms and Kitchens, RBC Hymers Private Wealth, the School District 22 maintenance crew, Elephant Premium Bin Rentals and BC Parks for helping out with her project.

READ MORE: Fire situation eases slightly, but risks remain as more than 400 wildfires still burn

READ MORE: B.C. evacuation order rescinded but district says wildfire remains ‘volatile’

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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