Ken Thomson can build just about anything.
He can fix just about anything too, given a couple of hand-tools and a little lumber. Those familiar with the grandfatherly Sparrow Lake resident won’t be surprised to read that.
But Ken doesn’t just build with lumber.
A regular fixture of Washago, he’s one of the guys who built the Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit organization that protects thousands of acres of ecologically important land in the region. And of all the things Ken has had a hand in creating, the conservancy is built of the sturdiest stuff.
Ken was a founding member and an early president of the organization. He has worked tirelessly for the conservancy as a volunteer since it began in 1993. If you have walked over a bridge on one of our properties, or taken a moment to look at a sign, you’ve experienced some of his work first-hand.
It’s not just bridges that he builds for us. He has had his hands on just about every aspect of the conservancy at one time or another. If we need someone to lead an expert tour of our properties, particularly those in the Washago area, it’s Ken we turn to. On some of the wilder properties, you get the sense he knows where every rock is, and what’s behind every tree.
He has also a leader on our Past President’s Council, a collection of all the presidents that have ever served the organization. The group is working on a long-term plan to create a $10 million endowment fund for the conservancy, and just two years in, we’ve already got an estimated $1.6 million in pledges. Ken is at every meeting, and he’s one of the finest ambassadors we have.
When Grant’s Woods near Orillia was donated to the conservancy by Bill Grant in honour of his brother Jack, Ken was a leader in the redevelopment of the old farmhouse into the organization’s offices. When we decided to make some upgrades to the place, he’s the first one we called. I discovered early on that he knows important things that no one else seems to know: Where the septic tank is, for instance.
If I had to pick someone who embodies the whole culture of the Couchiching Conservancy, it would be Ken. He’s competent and responsible and honest. He’s wise but not jaded. He doesn’t get easily flustered. He keeps his eye firmly on the task at hand. He’s not fancy, but he’s got class. He has a lively sense of humour but it’s always edged with kindness. And when a problem presents itself, he takes stock of the resources at hand and figures out a solution.
He’s going to take a ribbing for this article, but it has to be said. He’s a great guy and he’s made this part of the world a better place.
Written by Mark Bisset.