UC Davis, 1962, MSc, Environmental Horticulture and Park Administration
Gerry Chaster was born in 1927 in Duncan, BC. He “learned to milk cows and look after chickens and a pig, maintain 42 fruit trees of various kinds, dig and tend an acre of vegetable garden (under Grampa’s guidance) during part of the teen years”. After completing High School in Duncan in 1946 he worked with BC Highways Location & Construction Surveys throughout BC until 1951 when he entered UBC. In 1956 he obtained a BSA (Soil Science) degree, having spent three summers doing soil surveys for the Canada Department of Agriculture.
That summer he began work as a Soil Inspector on the Daisy Lake earth-filled dam project near Garibaldi for the BC Power Corp. In 1958 he rode the first passenger train from Squamish to N Vancouver, a thrill for Gerry since he had spent two years on the survey during 1949-51. Then he was back with BC Highways on the reconstruction of the Lougheed Highway, the first attempt to begin highway landscaping and soil erosion control with the assistance of Eric Hughes (another UBC grad). Other projects included Little Fort, Chilliwack overpass, Lions Gate Bridge north approach, research on the north approach to the Second Narrows Bridge using fish emulsions, and the Deas Island Tunnel Highway.
This experience led Mr Chaster to undertake further studies at the University of California, Davis, where he obtained a Masters Degree in Environmental Horticulture and Park Administration in 1962. Rebuffed by BC highways engineers when attempting in 1961 to establish a Highway Landscape and Soil Erosion Division (30 years too soon), Gerry accepted the position of the first Park and Street Tree Supervisor with the City of Davis, CA. Master’s Degree Advisor, Dr Richard Harris, and author of “Arboriculture” (the leading book on urban trees) encouraged his development through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the California Parks & Recreation Society and related seminar participation. Results were a nationally-recognized street tree program and a unique park system (continuing today) for the City of Davis. What had been planned as a 9-month stay at UC Davis for a Master’s Degree turned out to be a 13 year experience which included teaching Horticulture at Sacramento State University, a Life Membership in ISA, 6 years with Davis Kiwanis, and a brief involvement in Chaster Landscape Consulting in the USA.
Mr Chaster returned to BC in 1973, when he accepted a teaching position in Horticulture at the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT). A year later he began a nine-year career in Parks Administration with Saanich Municipality, a suburb of the City of Victoria. Research techniques learned on sand-based turf at UC Davis was put to use in the redesign of Cedar Hill Golf Course where the first such greens were built, and at Hampton Park where the first sand-based soccer field in Canada was built. This technique is now universal for all sports turf in the world. Also, Saanich parks developed an extensive street tree program following the guidelines developed by ISA research. During this phase of his career Mr Chaster maintained an active membership of the Western Canada Turfgrass Association, registration in the BC Parks and Recreation Association, BC Society of Landscape Architecture, and he was a Founding Member of the Western Chapter of the ISA. He was also a member of the Heritage Tree Society. Following official retirement in 1984, he set up Chaster Landscape Consulting and established and taught several courses at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific Camosun College. He designed Henderson Park Par 3 golf course for Oak bay municipality and a Par 3 course at Green Acres, Metochosin.
Mr Chaster is now fully retired and makes Duncan, BC, his home during the summer and he spends the winters in Hemet, CA.