A few weeks ago, I was walking my dog along the rugged Victoria shoreline when I saw some City of Victoria employees working on an eroded slope just up from the water’s edge. Thomas, an environmental restoration technician for the city, explained that they were planting a rare species of lupin to encourage the reestablishment of native species in coastal bluff ecosystems. In keeping with IEG’s New Year’s resolutions to give back to the communities we live in, I asked Thomas if there were volunteer opportunities to work on restoration projects in the area.
And so I found myself in Beacon Hill Park on a misty Saturday morning, equipped with some gardening gloves and a pair of pruners, walking into the forest with a crew of volunteers. Our mission was to remove invasive species from the undergrowth, focusing our efforts on English ivy (Hedera helix), holly (Ilex aquifolium) and daphne (Daphne laureola). When I saw the extent of the English ivy cover, I realized we had our work cut out for us. It demonstrated to me both how pervasive these species can become once they are established and the importance of volunteers dedicated to reducing their spread.
It was interesting to hear what motivated people to volunteer, and what peaked their interest in the natural world. There was an underlying shared belief among volunteers that inspired me – individual community members play a vital role in protecting and restoring local natural areas. As for myself, there is a certain disconnect between living in one place, and working in another, particularly when the two are geographically far apart. I live in Victoria, but most of the mines where I contribute to field-based reclamation programs are not on the island. It felt great to direct some of my efforts towards the ecosystems that I walk through every day.
Over cookies and juice boxes at the end of the work party, several volunteers mentioned a Bioblitz occurring on Earth Day (April 22), in which groups of volunteers spread out across Beacon Hill Park, in Victoria, and try to identify all of the plant species they see. Bioblitz events are occurring across Canada, and in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the theme is to “document the species discovered from sea to sea to sea to create Canada’s nature selfie“. For those of you who know your plants, or, like me, are learning and want to test your skills, look to see if there is a Bioblitz happening near you (http://bioblitzcanada.ca/default.aspx) and sign up! It’s a great way to get to know your local flora, meet new people, and contribute to your local community.