By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times
The windows of the Rotary Interpretive Centre offer views of all the various elements of the Derek Doubleday Arboretum come together, just as the whole project has been a coming-together of Langley’s communities.
Indeed, from the start, the interpretive centre, itself, has been one of those elements.
When the Doubleday Arboretum was first conceived as a showplace for the natural beauty of Langley’s plants, and for those gifted to community, the original concept included a building – “but not much detail,” said Les Clay, a longtime nurseryman, Rotarian, and community supporter.
The whole idea started while Clay was being recognized as Langley’s Senior of the Year in 2007.
He and both Langley mayors at the time were sitting in Langley City Park, admiring some shrubs he had donated to the City, and Langley City Mayor Marlene Grinnell said it was too bad there was no suitable place to show them off.
At the next Langley Rotary meeting, Clay remembers, Eric Bysouth took up the cause. He talked to Township Mayor Kurt Alberts, and they got a number of interested parties together.
Bill Lindahl, then the Township’s manager of parks and recreation, was assigned to liaise between Rotary, Trinity Western University, Langley Garden Club, Langley Field Naturalists, and others.
“It was as broad a group as we could make it,” Lindahl recalls.
The various stakeholders met over the course of a year to come up with a concept plan.
As the Doubleday Arboretum began to take shape, with gardens and pathways radiating out, ideas kept coming in to give shape to the interpretive building that would stand at its centre.
Another Rotarian, David Truman, had seen “something suitable” in a provincial park up the Sunshine Coast, Clay recalls, and so a group of Rotarians set out to investigate – and what they saw pleased them.
Work began with a $250,000 pledge from the Rotary Club of Langley. Other local clubs joined in, and Langley Township matched the Rotary funds.
Throw in countless hours of volunteer labour and further donations, like the $27,000 worth of windows, and Lindahl estimates that the building that has become a showpiece of its own at the centre of the Doubleday Arboretum is worth about a million dollars.
The new Rotary Interpretive Centre, at 21177 Fraser Highway, in the Arboretum nestled between Langley Airport and the Nicomekl River, will be officially opened at noon on Saturday, June 22.
The building will be open to public tours. Visitors can park at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, 20955 Old Yale Road, and shuttle service will be provided.
“One of the primary functions of the park is to educate people about the vast array of cultural and environmental uses for plants,” explained Al Neufeld, deputy director of public spaces and community initiatives for the Township. “The Arboretum’s new Rotary Interpretive Centre will serve as a focal point for these activities, while celebrating the beauty and versatility of wood as a building material and demonstrating sustainable design.”
The facility will also serve visitors to the Arboretum and the general public with restrooms, bookable meeting space, and a kitchenette.