Surrounded by camellias, magnolias, dogwoods and numerous other plants sits the home of avid horticulturalists and nature lovers Peter and Anneke Van Kerkoerle.
Located in south Nanaimo, the Van Kerkoerles have called the property of more than 16 hectares their home for nearly five decades.
But earlier this year, the Van Kerkoerles, who are now in their late 80s, made the decision to donate their property to the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, an organization that aims to protect and promote natural land values within the Nanaimo region.
“It’s all signed,” Anneke said, with a smile.
The legally binding document, known as a Life Estate, ensures that after the Van Kerkoerles have died their home and property will be protected by the land trust. The couple also signed a Voluntary Stewardship Agreement agreement with NALT.
“We bought this land and the trails are so beautiful,” Anneke said. “We thought these trees should never be cut.”
Both originally from Holland, Peter and Anneke met and fell in love while they were living in Kitchener, Ont. The couple, who have no children, moved to Nanaimo in 1967 and purchased the large property in 1968 and have lived there ever since.
“It was the first property we ever saw,” Anneke said.
The Van Keroerles have always been passionate about plants and nature. Peter spent his professional life working in the forestry industry as a horticulturalist and analytical technician, while Anneke stayed at home and maintained the property, which is complete with trails, creeks and wetlands.
Peter said his interest in plants started when he was a young boy growing up in Holland, adding that his passion rubbed off on his wife of more than 50 years.
“Anneke got it from me,” Peter said laughing. “When she met me she didn’t know much about plants.”
“I cared for plants, but I didn’t know the names,” Anneke replied.
“I taught her the names,” Peter responded.
The couple have been members of the land trust since the organization was founded in the 1990s. Their property, which was recently named the Parnassian Woods, is located next to NALT’s native plant nursery on Frost Road. The land trust also conducts guided tours of the Van Kerkoerle’s property.
The Van Kerkoerles said they had been thinking about donating their property to the the land trust for years and that they can continue to live their lives with peace of mind.
“It is a relief,” Anneke said. “We know it is going to be in good hands. We could have sold it. But what are people in their 80s going to do with all that money?”
Gail Adrienne, executive director for NALT, said it is a privilege to be receiving such a beautiful and well-taken care of property.
“It took awhile to get the process done,” Adrienne said. “Our lawyer had to work with Van Kerkoerle’s lawyer for a number of years.”
Van Kerkoerles will continue to live on the property, as they always have, under the agreement.
For more information on NATL, please visit www.nalt.bc.ca.