Michael Buckingham admits, he’s more of a technical “screwdriver and hammers” kind of guy, who just buckles down to fix things or get things done, rather than having a way with words.
Which probably is just the approach you need when you’re running a volunteer organization that plays a key role in what’s Metro Vancouver’s crown jewel of its parks system.
Buckingham, 80, has just been named chair of the board of the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, a non-profit entity that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and operates the Kanaka Watershed Stewardship Centre in conjunction with Metro Vancouver parks.
The centre is located in the middle of Kanaka Creek Regional Park, the emerald green jewel of Metro Vancouver parks system that holds a myriad of public and educational events and serves as a showcase for streams and forests in an urban environment.
He joined the society about 10 years ago because he “saw value in looking after Kanaka Creek and the watershed and I saw value in environmental maintenance of that,” Buckingham said.
In years past, the creek didn’t get the care it needed, he pointed out.
“So that was what drew me into it. I find value in trying to maintain something, which human beings in a way, are desperately trying to fish everything out of the ocean.”
Buckingham just took on the top spot four months ago and is still learning on the job.
As chair of KEEPS, the odd jobs, and big and small tasks, all fall on to his desk, including the task of keeping the finances in good order.
“It involves a fair bit of homework and a fair bit of diligence because there are contracts which have to be met,” Buckingham explained recently.
“You have to spend a fair bit of time, at least in the beginning. Maybe next year it will be easier, I don’t know. I hope so.”
His words a year ago in a letter to the editor evinces his commitment.
“The directors and members of Kanaka Education Environmental Partnership Society recognize that the value of maintaining good, clear water in all the creeks that feed into the Kanaka is of the utmost importance and is a strong measure of how society regards the land that they live on.”
As chair, Buckingham not only has to run board meetings, but gets tasked with the adminstrative chores that all seem to land in his lap.
Whether it be organizing another Rivers Day or Goodbye Chums event, filling out grant applications or balancing the books, Buckingham seems to take on the task.
“It’s all good. It’s all to do with the forest and watershed.”
In addition to ensuring the finances run smoothly, he also wants the future to run smoothly, as well.
Buckingham says that a new generation of volunteers are needed at all levels to ensure the longevity of the society.
“You have to look to the future to keep the thing going.”
Currently, there are about 10 people on this list while another two at the hatchery volunteer an “enormous” amount of time.
“There are dedicated volunteers and there are volunteers who are just on the list.”
In addition to keeping KEEPs running, Buckingham’s also involved in a totally different project.
He and another group of volunteers are compiling a history of the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society.
“However, there is no detailed record of the society’s creation or its forebears. Until now.”
The group is currently waiting to see if it will receive a grant to allow the publication of an 80-page history of the society.
Buckingham though limits his volunteer posts to the two organizations.
“When you get to 80 years old, you only have so much energy left,” he said.
Ross Davies, who the delivers KEEPs’ educational workshops in schools, said Buckingham is humble, but he gets things done.
But Buckingham is always probing to find different, and better, ways of doing things, Davies added.
“He was a reluctant chairman of the group, but he’s taken it, and run with it. Just a real, strong asset for the organization,” Davies said.