June 11, 2015 - 8:31 AM
VERNON - Many associate Middleton Mountain with the large housing subdivision that encircles it, but if you climb to the very top, you’ll find 90 acres of protected reserve land and one of the most spectacular panoramic views of Vernon.
While developers were picking up land around Middleton Mountain around the 1980s, Roy Farnsworth, who owned the top of it, refused to sell. But a few years ago, a different kind of buyer approached him. The Regional District of the North Okanagan wanted to turn the land into a nature reserve, an idea that sat well with Farnsworth, who is now 89 years old.
“We’d always said we were never going to allow buildings up there,” Farnsworth says. “You could see what was happening on the mountains all around us. Land is disappearing, they’re not making much of it anymore.”
Hikers have been accessing the mountain for years, and Farnsworth never minded sharing the land with people who respected it. Now, he’s ensured the community can enjoy it in perpetuity. The grand opening of the Farnsworth Nature Reserve, hosted by the regional district and Ribbons of Green Trail Society, was celebrated on June 6 to coincide with International Trails Day. Four generations of the Farnsworth family trekked to the top of the mountain to mark the occasion.
The view has changed somewhat since Farnsworth first took it in decades ago when there were no houses and no roads. It was in 1952 that Farnsworth moved to Vernon, where he worked as a chiropractor. His hobby was horses.
“I was looking for pasture really, a place to ride,” Farnsworth says.
He met Bill Middleton in 1961 and offered to help maintain the fences on his range land, by horseback of course. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the mountain.
“I wanted it from the first time I saw it,” he says.
He asked Middleton to let him know if it was ever for sale, and in 1967, he got his mountain. He rode it every day, often making his way over to Jade or Cosens Bay for a dip in Kalamalka Lake. Every chance he got, he was up the mountain.
“We rode up here and did nothing else with it other than ride and enjoy it,” he says.
As a Western rider, he even held a few rodeos and ‘suicide rides’ on the mountain for a few years in which contestants raced across the mountain on horseback dropping chips in a series of containers.
After living at the base of the mountain for many years, Farnsworth built a new home near the top in the 1990s with a view he plans to enjoy for the rest of his years.
“This has been second heaven living up here,” he says.
It wasn’t easy giving up the mountain, a piece of land he knows by heart and will always feel deeply connected to. It wasn’t until he rode up with his daughter and saw how the trail network had been put in that his mind was put at ease.
“They put the pathways in where I would have chosen,” he says. “It was done the way I’d like to see it done.”
Farnsworth still has horses pastured on the mountain and despite a hip replacement, still rides a bit on his little piece of heaven.
“I get choked up even now about it…. I used to ride at midnight up on the mountain. On a moonlit night you cannot believe the view you get from up there.”
The top 90 acres of Middleton Mountain are now protected as the Farnsworth Nature Reserve.
(CHARLOTTE HELSTON /InfoTel Multimedia)
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015