Frenchy Rieboldt

Alfred Rieboldt with a hound dog and a raccoon in 1973.
Alfred Rieboldt with a hound dog and a raccoon in 1973.

When Alfred Rieboldt arrived in Haney in 1960, he was already more than 60 years old.  He had moved here from Port Coquitlam and Deep Cove – a community that considered him something of a legend because of his tall tales, love of life and boundless enthusiasm.

Over the years, Alfred had worked as a millwright, shipwright, commercial fisherman and odd job specialist before retiring to devote his life to the study of nature and forestry.

Although his nickname was “Frenchy”, Alfred was German and had served in the German army during the First World War.  He spoke German, French, English, Latin, and Greek and lectured in universities and colleges on etymology, the origin of languages.

The five-acre site he purchased on Tamarack Lane became his own personal forestry and wildlife preserve and a haven for countless waterfowl.  Over the years, families of raccoons, foxes, Canada geese, different varieties of ducks and other creatures called the place home, but he was better known to the public for his dogs and his decrepit vehicles.

Alfred Rieboldt in 1973, feeding some ducks.
Alfred Rieboldt in 1973, feeding some ducks.

Alfred was a character in every sense of the word, but was thoroughly knowledgeable on a wide range of topics and he maintained an ongoing interest in civic matters.  In 1973 he ran for mayor against the incumbent Gerry Trerise and challenger Betty Dube.  He didn’t win, but his comment at an all candidates meeting, “If you can’t vote for me, vote for Betty Dube” was regarded as a turning point in the election.

In his declining years, with only distant relatives in Germany as family, Alfred became concerned over the future of his Tamarack Lane refuge.  He offered to leave it to Dube, but she convinced him to leave his estate to the people of Maple Ridge.  He did, and the transformation of the property into a park became the first project for the newly formed Maple Ridge Foundation.  Alfred died in March of 1975.

In 1976, with the blessing of Mayor Norm Jacobson and help from the Alouette Field Naturalists, the Maple Ridge Foundation was formed with a mandate to develop the property into a park.  Dr. Bob Rhodes, a local physician and horticulture buff, was the first president.

Rhodes later recalled that the concept of the foundation originated with a group of local people, including George Grieve, a director of the park and recreation commission and a member of municipal council.  Grieve attended a seminar in Spokane, Washington, where he was impressed with results of a foundation that had been set up in that city of 1951.  The Spokane model was brought north to Maple Ridge, and planning and fundraising began.

The park was completed with a caretaker’s house and public washrooms, and opened to the public in October, 1984.  Today it includes an interpretation area with botanical information, a display of antique farm equipment and a covered picnic area.