About 10 kilometres northeast of Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, B.C., lies a special forest that represents the beautiful legacy of a family, a wonderful partnership between TWU and the Township of Langley, and a unique ecosystem that’s home to old-growth trees, lush greenery, and migrating birds.
Before it became known as the Blaauw Eco Forest, this area was called Grey Pit and had been owned by the Township of Langley since the 1930s. For about 80 years it flourished, always remaining the object of admiration for Thomas Blaauw, a long-time farmer in Langley who had a special affinity for its green space, peace, and freedom.
Thomas and Ann Blaauw, who had begun their life together in 1960, owned a cranberry farm not far from the forest. Thomas said that if the land ever came up for sale, he would buy it. However, in August 2012, Thomas passed away at the age of 75, leaving Ann, their son, two daughters, and six precious grandchildren mourning the loss of a loving family man and integral member of the community.
And yet that same year, 2012, the township decided to subdivide the land into lots to be sold. When Phil Henderson, an environmental consultant, and Glenn Ryder, a renowned naturalist from Aldergrove, caught wind of this, they became concerned about the impending environmental loss. And after discovering numerous at-risk plant species that ranked high in conservation concern, they presented their findings to the township and urged the township to do whatever it took to preserve the forest. Mark Haddock, an environmental lawyer, confirmed that extremely few “forests of this age near the Fraser River and in low elevation” remained, because “they have largely been removed during the history of settlement in this area.”
Learning of this, the Blaauw family immediately knew they wanted to do what they could to ensure this forest was preserved. Ann Blaauw donated the funds to Trinity Western University so that it could buy the property from the Township of Langley and enter into an agreement to preserve the forest in perpetuity. For Ann, this opportunity was a perfect way to honour Thomas’s legacy and the fifty dedicated years he had spent serving his community.
Ann is thrilled that this gift will not only keep the forest green for generations to come, but also gives Trinity Western University’s environmental professors and students an invaluable resource mere kilometres away to conduct studies, make new discoveries, and contribute to research and conservation.
Paul Weme, Vice-President for Development at TWU, says, “Trinity Western is truly blessed by this forest here so close to our campus, allowing our students to come here and learn more about environmental studies, but also for the recreational aspects that it brings to the Langley community.” He adds, “I am so grateful to Ann and her family for this wonderful gift.”
Dr. Mark Husbands, President of TWU, says that the partnership between Trinity Western and the Township of Langley reflects the university’s vision, values, and commitment. The university believes in creating opportunities for students to use their education to benefit the community and make a lasting difference in the world. Citing wise words from the biblical prophet Jeremiah, Husbands emphasizes TWU’s commitment to “seek the well-being of the city” and contribute to the surrounding community’s flourishing and prosperity.
The Blaauw Eco Forest represents the past, present, and future. A haven not only for the plants and creatures that depend on it for life, it is also the birthplace of a beautiful covenant that—thanks to one family’s immeasurable generosity and kindness—brought people together for a common good. Trinity Western is thankful for the Blaauw family and immensely proud to be a part of sustaining such a beautiful ecological environment.