Why a longtime Christmas tree seller plans to gift his land to his community
Gale Rogers, 81, hopes the Greater Napanee land will be used by kids, skiers and hikers
A Greater Napanee, Ont., Christmas tree seller plans on donating 15 acres of his land to the municipality so it can be used for outdoor activities.
For decades, families have come to Gale Rogers' farm to cut down trees for the holidays. But the 81-year-old says this will be his last season, citing age as part of his decision to shut down.
"My family are located in different areas," Rogers told As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong. "So it's physically impossible for them to contribute or, you know, to carry on with this."
A space for outdoor activities
Rogers envisions his property being used as a park with no motorized vehicles, where people can participate in activities like hiking and skiing.
He hopes school groups will have the opportunity to visit.
"I have a couple biologist friends who I'm certain would volunteer to give a learning experience to children as they … walked about the property," he said.
Greater Napanee's outgoing mayor Gordon Schermerhorn told the Kingston Whig-Standard that the donation, though not official yet, "could be really something for the municipality."
"It's gracious of him," Schermerhorn told the paper. "I think it's a great location for nature trails,"
Rogers' tree farm began as a project for his children.
"We started growing strawberries … for them to earn a little bit of money so they could buy camping gear, which we utilized to travel coast to coast in Canada," he said.
"When that was finished and they were getting older, I thought why not plant some Christmas trees?"
It gave his kids a chance to learn about the different kinds of trees on the land, he said.
"After a couple years, I thought when we cut these trees ... it will be nothing different than a regular corn field or something. So I thought we will start interplanting with species that will be a permanent forest," he said.
"In the process of taking out these Christmas trees, you're doing what nature does in the thinning out of species ... so this has proved to be very satisfactory."
A holiday tradition
Rogers said some people return to his farm year after year to buy trees.
"We have had families coming as children who are bringing their children now," he said.
He recalls a story about one of those families who once spent over an hour selecting the perfect tree.
"All were happy except this one little girl about five or six years old. She was scowling and hanging back behind. I said, 'What's the trouble my dear?' She said, 'They got the ugliest tree in the forest,'" Rogers said.
"I said, 'Look, let me show you the most pretty tree in the forest.' I took her over and selected a little spruce tree.… Away she goes, pounding her chest and bragging to the other children."
Rogers said he plans on staying in touch with some of his longtime customers.
"Some of the land adjacent to the Christmas tree farm has a few Christmas trees. So those people this year that come — and have been coming for years — I will invite them to return."
Some of the proceeds from Rogers' tree sales over the decades have gone to the Salvation Army.
"It's the giver that receives more than the recipient," Rogers said.
Written by Katie Geleff. Interview with Gale Rogers produced by Imogen Birchard.