Members of the Fernie community and beyond are coming together to raise money to honour the legacy of local naturalist Bob Livsey, otherwise known as ‘Nature Bob’.
Livsey passed away in December of 2021, according Wendy Reade, who worked with him at the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) for two decades and organized the GoFundMe page on his family’s behalf.
As of Wednesday, Jan. 26, 85 donations had been made totalling $8,515 out of a $10,000 goal, with comments on the page all expressing fondness for Livsey.
Money raised will go towards erecting two benches in town, one for adults and one for kids, “so that people young and old can sit and enjoy the beauty that is around us every day, as Nature Bob has taught us to do,” the GoFundMe page reads.
Having two benches in town was a wish of his, Reade said.
“His wish as he was passing was to have these two benches in town, one for adults, one for kids… (so that) families could sit and enjoy the nature around them, and the mountains, and the trees, and the flora and the fauna.”
Livsey first came to Fernie about 20 years ago to visit friends, said Reade, who is the Winter Sports School director at FAR.
He was an accredited cross country and alpine ski instructor, and dropped by the resort those two decades ago to visit Reade for a conversation about staying and teaching with them.
Livsey had been living in Ontario at the time, according to Reade. The opportunity to be a ski instructor in the Rockies was too much to pass up on. So, he decided to move west with his wife to settle in Fernie.
But Livsey wasn’t just a talented skier. He was also a naturalist, Reade said.
“He was really into fossils and birds,” she said.
Livsey began a community hiking group and birding group in town, and did weekly nature walks. After about five years in Fernie, Livsey began to get involved in summer operations as a hiking guide and worker with kids groups at the hill.
This eventually led to the creation of Nature Bob’s Interpretive Centre, a yurt at the top of the Elk Chair that explores “fossils, artifacts and information about the unique geological formations and fossils to be found, and the wildlife that makes its home” in the Elk Valley, reads a description of the centre on tourismfernie.com.
“He would man the interpretive centre every day in the summer, and then we would do complimentary hikes down the mountain at the end of the day for anybody that wanted to hike down with him and talk about the forest and the animals and the fossils and our mountains… our geology,” Reade said, adding that the centre evolved as Livsey’s work with them went along.
Though the centre was a collective effort and the idea wasn’t originated by Livsey, he became the main feature.
“Because Bob really championed sharing his knowledge with people. He wanted to spend time with people and tell them about our environment, like our outdoors, and our… geology that we’ve got around us. He really championed it,” she said, adding that people at FAR supported it because “he was a great guy to have” on the team.
The two benches that the fundraiser is meant to support are only part of the effort to honour Livsey’s legacy. The resort also plans to fund two more benches in his name, one at the interpretive centre, and another at an ancient cedar grove that Livsey used to visit.
The grove, which sits on the borderland between FAR and the Mt. Fernie Provincial Park, “was always his special place, his magical place,” Reade said.
“We’re going to spread his ashes there in the summer. And we’re going to have a bench there. Because it was a place that he always took people,” she said, adding that “it was a bit secret.”
They also plan to re-name their Junior Ranger Program as “Nature Bob’s Junior Ranger Program.” Livsey always wanted to spark a passion for nature in kids, Reade said.
The interpretive centre on the mountain will still bear Livsey’s name, and continue to exist as it has.
“(Livsey) was just a very kind, caring person. (He) always had time for people, (he was) always interested in people, and wanting to share his passion of the outdoors,” Reade said.
“And that’s really what we’re trying to keep alive, is that people… spend time outside in our wilderness, in this beautiful place that we live, and spend it with appreciation.”
“Because he always did.”