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VIDEO: Merlin falcon released at J.J. Collett Natural Area during fall walk

Organization is also seeking more board members
A merlin falcon was released at J.J. Collett Natural Area on Sept. 24. (Facebook photo/Richard Bone)

Volunteers at J.J. Collett Natural Area held their annual fall walk on Sept. 24, and the turnout was superb, organizers say.

J.J. Collett Natural Area, located near Morningside, consists of 635 acres of Aspen Parkland.

“The day went really well,” said J.J. Collett Natural Area Foundation president Jack Surbey. “I think there were close to 70 people there, which is a lot for our walks.

“It was also a beautiful day — couldn’t have been better.”

Surbey joined the foundation in the 80s and has been president for much of the time since.

The foundation holds spring and fall guided walks and two opportunities for visitors to explore the trails at each event.

“(Local naturalist) Dr. Charles Bird leads one walk and one member of our own board leads the other,” said Surbey, adding that refreshments are provided after the walks wrap up.

A highlight of the recent event was the release of a merlin falcon by Carol Kelly, who is the founder of the Medicine River Wildlife Centre.

“She generally has birds that need to be released, and sometimes this coincides with our walks,” he explained. “We’ll contact her, and she will bring one down for us.”

In the meantime, Surbey said monthly meetings are again underway and the organization is also on the lookout for new board members.

“We are down to about four or five board members, and generally we have upwards of eight or nine. So if anybody is interested in that, or in volunteering, we are happy to have them come forward.”

The public is also invited to join in the meetings, which are typically held on the third Monday of the month.

For times and locations, check the website as meeting locations go back and forth between Lacombe and Ponoka.

These days, Surbey said there are a few things around the site that need maintenance, plus they will also be installing some memorial benches in the coming months.

Down the road, they are also looking at putting in another wheelchair-accessible trail, he said.

Trails are open year-round, and Surbey said it’s surprising how many people utilize them through the winter months.

Meanwhile, Surbey said the past seasons have been strong ones, with great support from sponsors.

“We were able to build that boardwalk last year, and it went well,” he said. “We value all of the support that we get from everybody. At the fall walk, we had about $400 in donations — people just put money in the jar, so that was good. It tells you that the people who were there really enjoyed it, too.”

According to the website, more than 18 km of maintained trails “wind through a mosaic of shrub lands, aspen groves, stands of white spruce on moist shady hillsides, wetlands, and grassy meadows typical of the area.”

Sand dunes are also a unique feature of this site.

Funding for projects come from supporters, fundraisers, the selling of foundation memberships, and provincial grants.

The J.J. Collett Natural Area Foundation was established in 1985.

For more information, head to

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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