Some land trusts are formed as people rally to protect a cherished natural area that is imperilled by development or some other threat. However, for the first two years of its existence, the Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT) was a landless land trust. It was an incorporated charity with a board of directors, by-laws, policies and several committees but – alas – no property to its name. It was a vision in search of its first tangible expression.
TTLT’s Mary Kerr with Carol and Rick Richardson at the dedication ceremony for the Meadowlily Nature Preserve (Photo credit: Dave Wake)
The Trust needed someone to take a leap of faith, someone to take a chance on an enthusiastic but young, and largely unproven, organization. Fortunately for TTLT, that someone – actually two “someones” – came along in the persons of Carol and Rick Richardson. For many years, Carol and Rick had enjoyed the charms of their 14.5-acre property on Meadowlily Road South in London. It featured several acres of mature hardwood forest, a meandering stream and an open meadow along the banks of the Thames River. Adding to its allure was the fact that it is situated directly across the road from the City of London’s Meadowlily Woods Environmentally Significant Area.
Looking beyond their own tenure of the property, Rick and Carol were searching for a means to protect its natural features in perpetuity just as TTLT was looking for its first land securement opportunity. As chance would have it, their paths crossed and the rest, as they say, is history.
Carol and Rick had explored protection options for Meadowlily at the municipal level, but were unable to obtain a designation that guaranteed them the permanent protection they sought. Carol recalled that she had attended a lecture at the London Central Library several years prior for which she still had her notes. She phoned the number she had recorded and was advised to contact Mary Kerr who was active in the protection of natural and built heritage within the City. Mary, in turn, introduced Carol to TTLT and the permanent protection that was available through the Trust and the federal government’s Ecological Gifts Program.
Rick and Carol must have seen something they liked in our young organization. Perhaps it was the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of an exciting new endeavour or the quality of the people involved. Perhaps it was a combination of these.
Regardless, on October 20, 2002, a group of 80 exuberant TTLT supporters, including Rick’s parents, gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Meadowlily Nature Preserve, which Carol and Rick had gifted to the Trust. That day, two sets of dreams – those of the Richardsons and those of the Trust – came to fruition.
Carol was, and still is, the definition of cheerful enthusiasm. With boundless energy and ideas to match, she is something of a perpetual motion machine. Backing her up was Rick, a steady hand on the tiller as the property donation process wound its way along.
They wanted Meadowlily to be a place where children could have the same opportunities they had to explore nature, a place that would inspire a sense of wonder. As a child, Rick had the Thames River in his backyard on Hamilton Road East, while Carol – at her childhood home of Nova Scotia – had a local pond where she caught pollywogs in summer and learned to skate in the winter. True to the Richardsons’ wishes, hundreds of young people have been introduced to the natural world through the Meadowlily Nature Preserve, including those involved with Catholic Central High School’s Environmental Leadership Program.
Carol and Rick’s involvement did not end with the transfer of their property, however. They remained loyal supporters of TTLT and attended numerous Trust events over the years. In January of 2019, the Trust lost a long-time friend with Rick’s passing, yet the legacy he and Carol created lives on. Today, Carol remains an active supporter of the Trust.
Today, the Meadowlily Nature Preserve remains an oasis in the midst of the bustling city. On the adjacent residential property, Carol and Rick’s son, Bruce, operates “Meadowlily Farm” which includes an apiary and a duck rescue operation. While attending to his own activities, Bruce also keeps a watchful eye on the Trust’s Meadowlily property.
Looking back today, Carol remarks, “It is hard to believe it has been almost 20 years since we gifted the Meadowlily Nature Preserve to TTLT. I still visit the trail along the Thames River, now accompanied by my grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is so rewarding to enjoy this special hike within the City limits, especially when the spring wildflowers are in bloom.”
Although TTLT now has 17 properties totalling over 1700 acres, there will only be one first property, and Meadowlily Nature Preserve will always hold a special place within the organization. TTLT is where it is today due, in no small measure, to the chain of events catalyzed by the Richardsons’ first gift.
Bernie VanDenBelt with contributions from Carol Richardson