Barn at Brooksdale Environmental Centre in Surrey, home to A Rocha Canada.
(Photo: A Rocha Canada)
THE DONATION of a 4.1 million dollar heritage property to A Rocha Canada, a Christian conservation organization, was made by the Neufeld family of British Columbia this past December.
The gift marks the fulfillment of a dream Arnold and Elizabeth Neufeld have had since the 1990s. Their 18-acre farm in Surrey, B.C. was originally established in 1933 as a riding estate for the family of Greta and Sam Brooks, who played a significant role in B.C.’s timber history.
The Neufelds purchased Brooksdale in 1972 after the riding estate had been turned into a care facility for people living with mental illness and mental disabilities.
In 2009 a representative from the Neufeld family approached A Rocha Canada with the generous offer of donating all the environmentally sensitive land as well as the heritage buildings to the organization. A Rocha’s conservation team had been performing various mammal, fish and bird surveys on the property, but no one in the organization had an inkling that such a dramatic offer would be presented.
The organization relocated to Brooksdale in 2010, leasing the property from the Neufeld family. Five years later, nearly ten thousand students have visited Brooksdale on environmental education field trips; over 50 tons of vegetables have been grown and distributed through A Rocha’s Community Shared Agriculture program; and a myriad of threatened species and habitats have been studied and preserved in the Little Campbell River watershed. (The Little Campbell River, which runs through the eastern portion of the property, is the most productive salmon-bearing stream of its size in the Lower Mainland.)
History of Brooksdale
In 1912 Sam Brooks’ Power River Company produced the first newsprint in the province and went on to become one of the world’s largest print plants. His Brooksdale estate was designed in the Tudor Revival style of architecture and is today considered one of the largest and most significant heritage sites in Surrey.
Over the years the Neufelds and their staff transformed this institutional facility. Drama troupes and musical ensembles were formed. Performances were held in the big yellow barn and manor house. The residents also worked in the gardens, helping with the planting, weeding, and harvesting of the food that would later fill the kitchen. They tinkered with wood in the workshop and relaxed by the river in the late afternoons.
The thoughtfulness with which the Neufeld family and their staff approached their clients was extended even to the land itself. Arnold Neufeld, who passed away in 2001, had a strong sense that the land was to be cared for and preserved. Over the years the family discussed their collective desire to see their property used and stewarded by a non-profit organization that would honour the care they had exhibited for this special place.
Now that this legacy gift has been donated, A Rocha is moving ahead with capital improvements, beginning with the historic barn, renovating it into a world-class conservation and education centre to welcome the public and train students of all ages.
“We want this to be a place that honours the legacy of Elizabeth and Arnold Neufeld and honours the heritage value of this special property,” said David Anderson, the director of Brooksdale Environmental Centre. “We are excited that this will be a place of welcome, education and conservation for years to come.”
A Rocha is an international Christian conservation organization whose vision is for “the transformation of people and places by showing God’s love for all creation.” Its motto is “Inspiring hope, caring for Creation” and it does so by engaging in scientific research, environmental education, community-based conservation projects and sustainable agriculture and living. “Underlying all we do is our biblical faith in the living God, who made the world, loves it and entrusts it to the care of human society.”
ARC interns also work alongside A Rocha projects around the world in places as diverse as urban London and the Kenyan Coast. The name “A Rocha” is Portuguese, and means “The Rock.”
A Rocha began its work in Canada in 2000, establishing its first field study centre in the Little Campbell Watershed. In 2005, ARC’s second centre emerged in Southern Manitoba’s Pembina Valley, providing a strategic location in the heart of a rich and important oak woodland ecosystem. The A Rocha Prairie Centre is part of over 2,500 acres of adjacent land that is protected as a provincial park and wildlife management area. This unique location provides opportunities to engage the over 10,000 visitors to the park each summer.
Both the Field Station in Manitoba and the Brooksdale Centre in BC host volunteers and visitors for on-site education, conservation, and sustainable living activities. The Centres are also ideal for those looking for research opportunities or just hands-on experience. Brooksdale also offers a guest house and space to host conferences and retreats.
Networks of committed volunteers are emerging across the country and forming A Rocha Community Groups in places like Victoria and Houston, BC; Calgary, Winnipeg and the Greater Toronto Area. These groups are acting locally to carry out community-based conservation work.
A Rocha also offers video and print resources to churches, schools and communities on sustainable living and community gardening including “Why Every Church Should Plant a Garden and How” and several sermon outlines on Creation Care as well as promoting awareness of good environmental stewardship on what A Rocha has designated Good Seed Sunday each spring.
Currently 4,370 Canadians support the work of A Rocha in Canada. TAP –Source: www.arocha.ca