Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

Greg Barnett - at home in nature (Photo courtesy of Barnett family)

Greg Barnett - at home in nature (Photo courtesy of Barnett family)

Greg Barnett: A life shaped in nature

Greg Barnett spent his life fascinated by nature and the world around him. His zest for exploring and understanding flora, fauna and wild landscapes was insatiable. Sadly, his full journey was shortened when he passed away in January 2021 after a brief illness.

Greg Barnett as a young naturalist (Photo courtesy of Barnett Family)

Greg Barnett as a young naturalist (Photo courtesy of Barnett Family)

From an early age, Greg was a gifted artist and found inspiration for his paintings in the kettle lakes, vernal pools and mature upland deciduous woods of Happy Valley Forest, 40 kilometers north of Toronto. There, his grandparents and extended family owned property, now part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) vital network of conservation lands. He studied the local wildlife especially the insects, amphibians and tree species and his knowledge of ecology was extraordinary. Greg had an amazing ability to capture others' interest, whether new to the subject or well versed. He simply loved sharing his enthusiasm for the natural world with anyone who would listen.

Greg Barnett (right) hiking with his mentor Ian Barnett in B.C., 2019 (Photo courtesy of Barnett Family)

Greg Barnett (right) hiking with his mentor Ian Barnett in B.C., 2019 (Photo courtesy of Barnett Family)

Not only did Greg have a deep love for nature, but he was also devoted to his family and friends. His immediate family, nieces and cousins were touchstones in his life, and he would connect with them as often as he could. Greg spent much time in BC with his beloved western relatives, observing diverse areas such as rattlesnake dens, grizzly bear diggings, countless wetlands and great gray owl nesting sites. Greg had a fascination for the people who lived in remote places and met some very interesting characters who shared a mutual appreciation for nature and the idiosyncrasies of life. The experiences and lore that arose from his trips to the wild became firmly imbued into his persona and legendary storytelling.

Professionally, Greg worked with special needs children and adults, both within and outside the education system. His innate ability to develop and maintain trust and provide learning to his clients and students was remarkable. Born with some hearing and sight limitations, he was a true inspiration to others, as he exuded an indomitable spirit, courage, optimism, and humour. Greg spent time volunteering with the CNIB in support of the deaf/blind community, including encouraging physical fitness.

It is befitting that his love of nature and passion for helping others will be recognized at the Goldie Feldman Nature Reserve in Happy Valley Forest near where he spent his youth. An accessible trail is being constructed there, funded, in part, by donations in his memory from his family and friends. This NCC property enhancement will make nature more available to the public in hopes that people of all abilities can access and forge a deeper connection to the outdoors so that we can collectively appreciate and care for the places where we live, play and explore.

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