Parks Canada is reminding people to remove fruit and berries that have been growing in their yards so they do not attract bears into the townsite. (Courtesy: Parks Canada)

It's harvest time! And this year, in an effort to protect wildlife and encourage Jasperites to use the fruit grown locally, the Jasper Local Food Society (JLFS) is hosting its first ever Apple Festival on Sept. 26.

There will be a number of workshops about making apple cider, apple sauce, apple jelly, as well as fruit leather and dried apples.

Apparently, there are many uses for apples.

Marissa Kidd, vice president of JLFS, said: “That's the idea. Taking some of what's thought of as a waste product destined for compost and what is a hazard for bears, to something that has a long shelf life.

“You can ferment it into alcohol cider, or drink as it is, or you can can it - and it'll last a whole year at least, or you make apple jelly.

“It's also reducing our environmental footprint, and it's an opportunity to connect with neighbours.”

Kidd said the response to apple-sharing in Jasper from people has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

More than a dozen trees in town were lined up to be picked by students and volunteers this week.

And a team of volunteers recently collected apples from trees in Hinton after people there reached out to the JLFS.

The Apple Festival will be held at the Jasper Community Garden on Connaught Drive and Kidd welcomed everyone.

COVID protocol will be in place, with limitations on the number of people in the garden and a requirement to wash or sanitize your hands, and to wear a mask.

There will be sessions held throughout the day, led by local food enthusiasts and experienced apple preservers. There will also be cider pressing all day.

The first workshop, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will be on making fruit leather and canning applesauce and apple jelly. It will be led by Jamie Orfald-Clarke and Julie Des Becquets

From 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., longtime Jasperite Mel Hindle, who knows a lot about human and wildlife interactions in the park, will host a session on responsible fruit tree management in Jasper. It will include the history of the relationship between humans and bears and how to become better neighbours to bears and other animals.

And from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sue Podmerow will be hosting a workshop on drying apples.

The first and last workshops, Kidd noted, are aimed toward skill-sharing and helping people learn how to process the often very tiny apples that grow in Jasper.

The workshops are free, but the JLFS will accept donations toward an industrial-scale apple cider press that can be used for years to come in the community.

“We have approval from the JLFS board to purchase an apple press,” Kidd said, adding that the society wants to fundraise as much as possible to help offset the cost.

Kidd extended gratitude for the positive response to the Human-Wildlife Conflict employees.

She said: “Though their official fruit tree strategy advocates for removal, over management of fruit trees, Human-Wildlife Conflict has been incredibly helpful in supporting our efforts to bring the community together around this.”

People are asked to report any sightings of bears within the Jasper townsite to Parks Canada by calling 780-852-6155.