Ruby Alton's family, the Lacy family, settled on Salt Spring Island at the start of the Depression. Ruby grew up digging clams, fishing, raising sheep and growing vegetables on the family farm to supplement the family's income. As an adult, she was an ardent environmentalist and had a love of gardening.
When she died, Ruby bequeathed her property, including the house, gardens and forest, to the Islands Trust Conservancy. Her gift to the community protects the lower reaches of a creek and the surrounding forest filled with big-leaf maple, Douglas-fir and western redcedar. At low tide, rich mud flats are revealed in front of the waterfront property, with ample clam and eelgrass beds supported by the creek. Lush vegetation along the high tide mark provides cover for the marine habitat.
The house on the Ruby Alton Nature Reserve is believed to have been built sometime in the 1930s or 40s, before the property was purchased by Mr. Alton and his first wife. Ruby Alton, then Ruby Lacy, originally came to the property to nurse Mrs. Alton who'd become bedridden. Ruby married Mr. Alton after his first wife's death.
Ruby herself grew up on Salt Spring Island, her family settling here at the start of the Depression. Ruby cherished the thrifty pragmatic values that came out of the Depression and was an ardent environmentalist who recognized the importance of conserving resources and protecting habitat. Ruby protected the Lacy property through a restrictive covenant before it was sold. In her will, Ruby bequeathed the Alton house, gardens, pastures, and forest spanning two properties to the Islands Trust Conservancy and Nature Conservancy of Canada. She envisioned her house and garden remaining a place for her neighbours and friends to continue gathering, to swap stories, lessons, hopes and dreams.
Visitors to the Ruby Alton Nature Reserve can picnic and relax on the beach overlooking Fulford Harbour. The beach can be reached through the wooden gate on Isabella Point Road, and the walking path that travels through Ruby's old pasture. Please keep in mind that the family caretaking Ruby's house and gardens also call this place home. Please respect their privacy and refrain from parking in or blocking the driveway on the property.
Anyone interested in learning more about the sustainable features of the home, including the rainwater collection system and vegetative tertiary filter wastewater treatment system may book an appointment to tour the property with a staff member. For more information, please contact Nuala Murphy.
The Ruby Alton Nature Reserve is distinct among the properties we own in that it contains a building and gardens that Ruby asked us to sustain into the future. As a land trust with a mandate to protect rare and endangered ecosystems, this presents us with unique management challenges. The Islands Trust Conservancy has been privileged to find Salt Spring Island families who've over the years lived and cared for Ruby's house and gardens. Laughter, love and life continue to fill her home.
Ruby left an endowment that provides modest funding for the annual maintenance of the house. Since inheriting the property, the Islands Trust Conservancy has also fundraised to install a rainwater collection system, a vegetative tertiary filter wastewater treatment system, and upgrade insulation in the house in order to lessen its ecological footprint. For as long as is economically feasible, the Islands Trust Conservancy will continue to maintain the house, offering affordable housing for families willing to care for the property. The management plan for the Ruby Alton Nature Reserve can be viewed here.