The Observer presents Hometown Heroes, a feature celebrating unsung heroes, individuals who go above and beyond for their community.
Keith Cox has a passion for plants and the great outdoors.
Putting his passions to work has earned him a Hometown Hero nomination, courtesy of the Shuswap Trail Alliance.
“Keith has contributed countless hours to the backcountry trails (ungroomed) at Larch Hills Nordic, keeping them free of blow down each summer and fall,” wrote project operations manager Adrian Bostock in an email.
“He is also a champion of the Shuswap alpine trails as well as an expert on native plants.”
Bostock noted that Cox grows several varieties of native plants in his back yard and works with the Shuswap Trail Alliance and the Salmon Arm Greenways Committee to plant them throughout community trails.
“I get so much enjoyment in being outside, and the trails are such and easy and great way to get to all sorts of interesting places,” said Cox. “It just seems to come naturally and there is such a fun element of being on them.”
As well as working on Larch Hills trails, Cox said he also given a helping hand at the Enderby Cliffs. Working with other members of the Trail Alliance is an added bonus.
“Everyone in the alliance is so positive and so good to work with,” he said. “It makes it so enjoyable and so easy.”
For more than 30 years, Cox worked for the forest ministry’s Skimikin Seed Orchard, located at the same site as a forest nursery.
Over time, he developed an interest in native plants, and being next to the nursery allowed him to see many growing techniques.
“I thought, I’ll give it a try too,” he said of a variety of plants he grows from seed in his backyard. “I quite enjoy it and I only do a reasonable amount of it so I keep it to a fun level.”
Cox’s favourite native plants include ocean spray, a shrub he says produces lovely white, creamy flowers in June, Douglas maple, Oregon grape, wild clematis and orange honeysuckle.
Seeds are collected and then planted in the fall.
“Native plants are different; they like to be convinced there has been a winter,” he said, pointing out the seeds sprout when cold gives way to warmer weather.
“And sometimes it will take two years.”
Cox also volunteers with the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society, in an effort to encourage the establishment of native plants before invasive weeds take hold.
Cox humbly confirms he puts in “a couple hundred hours a year,” and said, “it makes you feel good to contribute and there is a certain amount of social connection.”
If you know someone who is a Hometown Hero, please send their name, email, phone number and a brief write-up about them to email@example.com.