Meduxnekeag River Association celebrates conservation, education and preservation

by | Apr 22, 2024

Another successful dinner and auction showcase a quarter century of MRA success

The sold-out 2024 Meduxnekeag River Association Dinner and Auction reflects a quarter century of community devotion to the conservation, preservation and education of the valley’s rare and historic old-growth forests.

“The support’s great,” said MRA president Stephen Wilson. “It’s a little local platoon that serves a significant niche in the area.”

MRA board members, supporters, community, business and political leaders jammed the Knights of Columbus Hall in Woodstock on Saturday evening, April 20, to voice support and raise money at the annual event.

Wilson explained that the association’s seeds were planted almost 30 years ago, but the Meduxnekeag River Association was incorporated in 1998.  

An oil painting by St. John River Valley landscape artist Jean Richard, one of the event’s 14 live auction items, depicted the natural beauty of Wilson Mountain, MRA’s first significant land purchase in 1998.

Wilson explained the purchase of Wilson Mountain preserved two kilometres of shoreline with about 103 acres of property otherwise destined for clearcutting or subdivision.  

Under the attentive stewardship of the same family for a couple of hundred years, Wilson explained, the primarily forested parcel of land remained in beautiful shape, showcasing the old-growth Appalachian hardwood native to the Meduxnekeag Valley.

An oil painting of Wilson Mountain by landscape painter Jean Richard depicts the natural beauty of MRA’s first significant acquisition for the Meduxnekeag Nature Preserve. (Jim Dumville photo)

“As reflected in that painting that sold, it is possibly one of the most aesthetically pleasant properties,” he added.

The evening’s MC — Simon Mitchell, World Wildlife Federation – Canada vice president, in charge of Resilient Habitats — expressed excitement, but not surprise, to welcome another sold-out MRA dinner and auction.

Simon Mitchell, from the World Wildlife Federation – Canada, serves as MC for the 2024 MRA Dinner and Auction. (Jim Dumville photo)

Mitchell, who has a long history with the MRA, described it as particularly exciting to welcome another packed event on the 25th anniversary of the association’s first preserve purchase. He noted that without COVID, it would have also been the 25th anniversary of the dinner and auction.

Wilson and Mitchell both noted the Carleton County community’s wide connection to the Meduxnekeag Preserve, noting the many trails that allow everyone to enjoy the natural beauty.

Wilson explained that the MRA wants to share the preserve with the public and that the trails help share the biodiversity that the MRA strives to protect.

Mitchell explained residents in Woodstock and outlying communities have a multi-generation connection with “the creek,” as the Meduxnekeag is known to longtime residents.

“This is where they were kids, where they brought their kids and now grandkids,” he said.

While COVID limited access to many things, including the MRA Dinner and Auction, Mitchell said the Meduxnekeag Preserve allowed individuals and families to reconnect or connect for the first time with nature.

A packed house takes their tables at the MRA Dinner and Auction on April 20 at the Knights of Columbus Hall. (Jim Dumville photo)

“Today, we’re seeing community members and business owners and others out supporting the organization and helping them to protect what is such a unique and wonderful place,” he said.

Wilson said the widespread public support for the MRA’s efforts provides essential benefits in the distant future.

“It’s local, it’s tangible and it’s in perpetuity,” he said. “It’s perpetual so hopefully a thousand years from now this little thing which seems insignificant now but as the planet is evolving it becomes more important.”

During his remarks as MC, Mitchell explained how today’s efforts would pay dividends far into the future.

“It will be protected for our grandkids, great grandkids and then some,” he said.

Mitchell paid tribute to the MRA board, staff and volunteers. He also praised their efforts to introduce children to nature and educate them about its direct impact on their lives.

MRA President Stephen Wilson holds a handmade cigar box guitar donated by Ken Nichols, while Jeff Wright, as guest auctioneer, takes bids on the unique item. (Jim Dumville photo)

He said more than 3,000 students visited the preserve last year. In addition to the schools’ efforts, he said children could join a children’s nature club as part of a project driven by MRA’s Outreach and Marketing Coordinator, Holly Melanson.

Mitchell also pointed out that many of the students who enjoyed the school visits to the preserve became essential members of the MRA team as they grew.

“Over 100 summer students worked with us over the years,” he said.

Since its acquisition of Wilson Mountain, the award-winning Meduxnekeag Nature Preserve has grown tenfold. The community-supported land trust and education organization now protects 1,100 acres of Appalachian hardwood forests.

Silent auction items line the walls and the stage where MC Simon Mitchell addressed the packed Knights of Columbus Hall for the 2024 MRA Dinner and Auction on Saturday, April 20. (Jim Dumville photo)

He said the community’s residents, artisans, businesspeople and others made that possible.

“They have just been such a huge supporter of the organization and to help them do what they do,” Mitchell said. “And we truly are unique in New Brunswick, and I would argue across Canada, really.”

After a dinner featuring salmon and chicken as main courses, event attendees generously bid on the live auction items, with businessman and former Woodstock Mayor Jeff Wright serving as auctioneer.

Before and during dinner, they wrote bids on one or more of the many donated silent auction items.

Board member Catherine Sutherland said area businesses generously donate auction items yearly, and people quickly snap up available tickets.

MRA Board member Catherine Sutherland wears a broad smile as she places a bid at the dinner and auction. (Jim Dumville photo)

Wilson said people from all walks of life appreciate the MRA and the Meduxnekeag Preserve’s critical role in protecting nature and heritage.

While New Brunswick’s woodlands play a central role in the province’s economy, it is vitally important to protect some of our old-growth forests for future generations.

“We need industry. We need the economy, but life is about balance,” Wilson said. “I mean what would New York be without Central Park.”

(with files from Theresa Blackburn)

FOREST FIRE INDEX – click image for current status

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have successfully subscribed! A confirmation email has been sent to your email account. To complete your subscription, open the email and click on the confirmation link. (If you can't find it in your inbox, try your junk and spam folders.) If you'd like to receive our updates more than once a week, please click the "Manage your subscription" link at the bottom of your Newsletter.