Rising from the Ashes
Community Park Memorializes Beloved Radium Woodcarver
Radium Hot Springs, BC, Canada – June 1, 2021
Columbia Valley’s legendary woodcarver, Rolf Heer, who passed away from cancer in July 2020, donated his property in Radium, known as “The Home of a Thousand Faces”, to be developed into a park in his memory.
“This park will be a space for art, for community and for remembering Rolf,” says Valerie Bracken, President of the Radium Village Arts & Culture Society. Preliminary plans for the park feature greenspace, play areas for children and a pavilion shaped as a wizard hat – a nod to Rolf’s signature apparel.
The park is being designed by Richard and Valerie Bassett of Bassett Associates, Landscape Architecture Inc. in Calgary. The couple has a second home in the Columbia Valley and have been inspired by Rolf’s eccentric, playful spirit to donate in-kind design services for the park.
Rolf’s friends, along with members of the Radium Hot Springs community, have banded together to oversee the development of the park, which will feature a number of Rolf’s original wood carvings that remain after the devastating fire that destroyed his iconic home in November 2018.
Construction is expected to begin in 2022. Learn more about contributing to Woodcarver Park – Home of a Thousand Faces, at radiumarts.ca
Radium Village Arts & Culture
Ph: 250 270 0228
The Radium Woodcarver:
Eccentric & Whimsical, Radium Hot Springs’ own Wizard and Woodcarver, Rolf Heer, was a Local Treasure. God broke the mold after Rolf was born to the late Albert and Anna Heer-Zimmer, in Glarus, Switzerland. He was one of three children – a bright, creative, engaging and highly mischievous young boy – and he was a handful for his straight-laced, conservative parents.
By the time he was in grade 5 they were so exasperated, they put him in an all-girls school, just to teach him a lesson. To their dismay, He loved it there – and until the day he died, some of the fondest memories of his childhood were in that classroom, knitting his own socks, sewing his own dresses, baking muffins, playing classical piano…and communing with the girls.
After completing high school in Switzerland, he got his Certificate in Forestry and immigrated to Canada at the age of 21, first landing in Montreal. From there he came to Radium and was employed by BC Forestry Services. Rolf loved it here and said it “smelled like Switzerland”, so he settled in and built his legacy – the “Home of a Thousand Faces”, which was famous worldwide and featured on TV’s “Weird Homes”.
Rolf could always be spotted with his chainsaw, his natty cloak and unusual assortment of headgear – most memorably, his pointy, red wizard hat. His Home of a Thousand Faces was a sprawling, wooden stockade in the heart of Radium Hot Springs, with walls constructed of a myriad of spirits masterfully carved from tree trunks.
A mountain man with a love of nature and art, and the soul of a poet, he collected companions human and otherwise. His pet goats were denizens of the rooftop meadow that crowned his unusual abode and greeted visitors from near and far.
Visitors from all over the world made a point of stopping at Rolf’s and made a mental note of the sign by the door that read “Open When I Feel Like It”.
He became known as “The wizard who guarded the crack in the mountain” (famous Sinclair Canyon) until his beloved Home of a Thousand Faces and all of his creations, burned to the ground in November of 2018
Rolf was a citizen of the world and traveled to over 80 countries, making life-long friends along the way. Until shortly before he died, he spent his winters quietly fishing for his dinner in Thailand.
Rolf touched many, many lives and was the most authentic human being anyone could meet. When you were face to face with him you couldn’t help but look inside your own soul. There was no hiding from someone like Rolf – everything was on the table. He exhibited a rare honesty, a childlike wonder and a free and generous spirit like no other.
Rolf has been interred in the memorial wall behind St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Radium, where he joked that he had “bought a condo on the side of the hill so I keep an eye on my place”.
He has donated his renowned little corner of the planet to the Radium Chamber who designated it to the Village Arts & Culture Society to full-fill Rolf’s wishes to build “Woodcarver Park – Home of a Thousand Faces” in his memory.
The Village of Radium Hot Springs:
Radium Hot Springs is an idyllic mountain village nestled between the towering peaks of the Rocky and Purcell Mountain ranges, with the Columbia River running through the middle. It is the closest municipality to Kootenay National Park and a basecamp for adventures near and far.
The Village is home to about 800 residents, and it was recently named Canada’s Friendliest Town by Expedia.
Radium Village Arts & Culture Society:
The Radium Village Arts & Culture society was established in 2020 to manage the Woodcarver Park project and plan to continue with other projects that enhance arts and culture within the Village of Radium Hot Springs. Currently, the Board of Directors is made up of representatives from the Radium Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Radium and community members that were friends of Rolf’s. All are very enthusiastic to contribute in carrying out Rolf’s wishes.
Bassett Associates, Landscape Architecture Inc.
Bassett Associates Landscape Architecture Inc. offers a full complement of professional design and project management services. Established in 1997, Bassett Associates Landscape Architecture’s more recent projects include the lake community of Mahogany is south Calgary and Quinterra Legacy Garden in South Glenmore Park.
Richard and Valerie Bassett have been vacationing in Radium for decades and now own a vacation home in the area and they hold a great affection for the Village of Radium and its residents. They have generously donated their professional design services to build Woodcarver Park – Home of a Thousand Faces.
Woodcarver Park was designed to reflect and honour the late Rolf Heer and his iconic Home of a Thousand Faces. The new park reflects the creative and uniqueness that the Village of Radium Hot Springs has come to be known for when Rolf lived on this site for over 40 years. The central park feature will be a unique sculptural wood structure, the tree house, in the shape of a wizards hat that will serve as the park’s focal point.
The tree house will offer a viewpoint to take in the surrounding mountain vistas. It serves as a covered picnic area and will include the interesting history related to Rolfs unique home, that existed on the site before a fire destroyed the landmark in 2018.
Informal natural play with a log stump “ribbon’ will weave through the park leading to the secret garden and embankment slide. Sculptural pieces throughout the meandering pathway system will allow visitors to enjoy a variety of art throughout. Timber picnic tables and benches will allow visitors the opportunity to rest and take it all in.
The Park will include washrooms and an open lawn gathering area surrounded by informal seating for residents and visitors alike to enjoy community gatherings and festivities including Wood Carver days that are planned for the site once complete.
This new park will represent Rolf’s love of wood carving along with the arts and the gathering of family and friends.
Radium Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Radium
Tourism Radium Hot Springs Association is a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) representing the Village of Radium Hot Springs.
The Tourism Radium Hot Springs Association is a nonprofit organization led by the tourism industry and guided by a volunteer Board of Directors representing the accommodators, restaurant owners, attractions, and other retail business owners in the Village. We aim to position Radium Hot Springs as a premier mountain village destination.
Rolf Heer generously donated his property to the Chamber, who designated it to the Radium Village Arts & Culture Society, to carry out Rolf’s wishes for a park in his name.
The Tourism Radium team will be working collaboratively with the Arts & Culture Society to share the story of rising a legacy from the ashes and building Woodcarver Park in honour of Rolf Heer.