For the past seven years, Sandra McCance has been a welcoming voice and tireless contributor for the Friends of Lemoine Point.
A resident of Kingston for the past 32 years, the Montreal native was already invested in helping preserve and enhance the natural beauty of her adopted city as a long-time member of the Kingston Horticultural Society. At one of their meetings, Friends member David McMurray spoke on the topic of goldenrod, but also about the organization itself.
Intrigued by what she heard and looking for more to do in her forthcoming retirement, McCance began volunteering at the tree nursery at Lemoine Point Conservation Area – one of the signature creations of the Friends, who still run it to this day – and soon thereafter became the nursery’s volunteer co-ordinator, taking over from the late Jane Murphy, whom McCance describes as the “guiding light” not only of the tree nursery operation, but of the Friends of Lemoine Point as a group.
“I love doing it because we’re growing stock that can be planted out at Lemoine. We also sell stock to the public, which I see as partly an educational role, because we are encouraging the planting of native species, so it helps the community become more aware of our activities and what we do at Lemoine,” McCance said.
“I also volunteer with the Friends’ invasives removal team, and we were out recently pulling out garlic mustard and plan on going out again because it’s a tremendously invasive plant that is quite prolific at Lemoine Point and we’re trying to prevent it from taking over completely. And I see that as another educational opportunity because every time we’re out there doing some work, people stop and ask us what we’re doing, and we tell them about invasives and make them more aware of this problem.”
A geologist by profession, McCance worked in the mining industry for several years, which is where she gained an appreciation for nature and quickly developed a life-long passion for being outdoors. After moving to Kingston, she earned a teaching degree and also worked in a variety of roles at Queen’s University. Husband John McCance worked as a geophysicist for many years.
“I got involved in the Friends because I love gardening and I love Lemoine Point and spending time there, but at the time I heard David speak I hadn’t really known about the Friends or the opportunity to volunteer. I thought this might be a really interesting way to contribute and work alongside some like-minded people,” McCance said of the impetus for joining the organization.
“I think we’re a group of really committed citizens who have a desire to keep Lemoine Point as healthy and special as possible. It’s a wonderful resource right in the city, which is an amazing situation if you really think about it. I think it’s something we should all value, and it is so well used by individuals and families: we see people walking their dogs or just getting a little exercise and enjoying nature. It’s such an asset to the community. There is great access for everyone, and we have well-developed and well-marked trails and some great educational signage along the trails. It’s just a peaceful, quiet place that you can visit every day and enjoy nature and meet friends and family and neighbours.
“It’s so unique in that it has Lake Ontario shoreline. It has a well developed, mature forest and beautiful wildflowers – that’s my favourite thing to see in the spring.”
McCance believes that with the busy lives most of us lead, filled with stress, technology, deadlines and rapid change, having a place to depressurize, slow down both the heart rate and the overthinking, is good for all aspects of our well being.
“It’s important to get outdoors for so many reasons. Especially during COVID, having a place like Lemoine Point gave everybody an opportunity to get out and to see people, but not get too close. You were out in the open air; we could walk the trails and be safe when so many people were confined to their homes. So, it was wonderful to have that resource,” she said.
“It’s very calming and peaceful to go out and be in nature and hear the birds and see nature performing – it’s such a re-energizing thing for a lot of people to experience that. It’s good to get away from city life with all the traffic, noise and hustle and bustle and just enjoy nature. I think it’s really beneficial for everybody to have that experience.”
For those seeking an opportunity to take their commitment to being outdoors in nature to the next level, becoming a volunteer with the Friends of Lemoine Point would be a great way to not only scratch that itch, but also meet lots of like-minded people of all ages and backgrounds.
“It attracts a wide variety of people and that’s part of the attraction too. They’re all really nice people and we have a common goal, and we enjoy working together. Our favourite activity in the nursery is potting trees or potting plants – everybody loves to do that, and that’s something that many people may not get a chance to do in their homes because they may be living in an apartment or condo. We work every Wednesday morning from 9 a.m. until noon at the nursery and it gives you a chance to get a little dirty, have a little activity and meet some new people,” she said.
“What we’re doing with the tree nursery in particular is encouraging the growth of a tree canopy within the City of Kingston. That’s already been identified as a priority by the city and anything we can do to support natural, unspoiled environments within the city – which benefits everybody – is important. For anybody who loves gardening, the outdoors, the educational value of nature, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to join and volunteer with the Friends.”
For more information on the Friends of Lemoine Point, visit https://cataraquiconservation.ca/pages/friends-lemoine-point.