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A mighty heart and a formidable hill: Saanich man contributed to Christmas Hill before his passing

Michael Bolstler’s volunteer contributions improved well-being of nature sanctuary and himself
Michael Bolstler stands among blackberry brambles at Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy of Heather Bolstler)

Michael Bolstler was a man passionate and devoted to preserving Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in Saanich.

Bolstler recently passed away and his mother Heather Bolstler fondly recalls walking with him to the top of Christmas Hill about eight years ago, where he proudly showed her what he called a rugged piece of paradise.

While it was a stunning viewpoint, the landscape was also riddled with invasive weeds. Bolstler had decided he was going to do something about it, with the help of other volunteers dedicated to maintaining the natural space.

Heather described her son as a former IT manager who didn’t get much exercise until he discovered the nature sanctuary.

The work he contributed to its restoration allowed him to improve his fitness, she said, all while building his knowledge about nature restoration and care.

“The transformation in both Michael and the hill was truly stunning.”

By the end of summer 2019, Bolstler and several volunteers had installed stone steps and removed the blackberry bramble, Scotch broom and other invasive weeds.

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“Being engaged in this work and participating in this community helps people relate to the natural world in a way that is very special, it was wonderful to see that in Michael,” said sanctuary executive director Cara Gibson.

When Bolstler left his job in the IT world due to mental health challenges and discovering that the corporate world was not for him, he found his true interests lay in nature advocacy and building a better world.

He also channeled his passions – and what his mother described as messianic visions brought on by mental health predisposition – into writing a book and beginning an online blog.

“He wrote beautifully, intelligently, creatively, insightfully – and outside the confines of conventional or comfortable thinking,” she said.

Heather Bolstler, who resides in Australia, said when border restrictions ease she and their family will head to the top of Christmas Hill to scatter Michael’s ashes in the place he cherished most.

Gibson said many donations are being received in his name for the continued preservation of the sanctuary.

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