The cast and crew of the Enchanted Forest at George Owens Nature Park are grieving the death of one of their own, a volunteer they called “the queen of the trail” and the serious injury of her son, another forest volunteer.
Yvonne Douglas, 53, was killed Saturday and her son was injured in a car crash. The two were traveling from their home in the North Kansas City area on their way to the Independence park. Her son, Ian Douglas, in his 20s, is in critical condition at an area hospital after undergoing surgery for broken bones and internal injuries, according to the Enchanted Forest Facebook page.
Mother and son were on their way to the outdoor fall theater, in eastern Independence, to join other volunteers in covering props with plastic tarps to protect the pieces from last weekend’s rain, said Nancy Eppert of Independence, a 20-year volunteer at the Enchanted Forest.
Eppert described Yvonne Douglas, who began volunteering at the park nearly a decade ago, as “one of the most loving, giving and gregarious persons I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing anywhere – not just at the Enchanted Forest.”
Douglas was an iconic volunteer who gave of her time and talent “not for accolades, but because it was the right thing to do,” Eppert said. “To me, that is the badge of honor we all should wear, and she wore it well,” she said. The mother of two now-grown children, (a daughter has since moved from the area) raised them to give back to the community and they also volunteered at the event, working as actors as they got older. “That pays close tribute to her guidance,” she said.
As trail queen, Douglas was charged with planning, building sets and props and managing all details of the paved walking path, an area illuminated by orange, lighted plastic pumpkins. The area along the path is the stage for a series of mini theatrical scenes, featuring costumed fairytale and cartoon characters, Eppert said. A hayride returns visitors to the entrance.
The annual fall event, designed as a non-scary alternative to haunted houses, will go on as planned this weekend, Eppert said. “Yvonne would not have wanted it any other way,” she said. The forest is open from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the park, 1601 S. Speck Road, Independence. Cost is $3 per person at the event, which is produced by the Powerhouse Theatre Foundation with Independence Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.
Eppert said that, for now, the more than 70-member cast, and crew will privately memorialize the queen, taking time to remember her and the rest of the Douglas family, including her son. The group, who consider themselves like family, will later honor Douglas in a more permanent way. She said, “Of course, we all need to process and doing that together is the most important thing.”