A Place of Many Values
Many of you are familiar with Bennett Bay Park. The 26-acre property that includes Campbell Point and the area between the beach and Wilkes Rd. This part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is well loved by Mayne Island residents and visitors alike, with a great swimming beach and beautiful hiking trails. The Park Reserve also provides valuable habitat for local plants and animals and is one of the few places on Mayne Island protected from development. The ecosystems present within the property are globally rare, making the site significant from both a local community use and global conservation perspective.
Collaboration with Parks Canada
The Park Reserve was purchased from private landowners in 1995 and was managed by the Province of BC until 2003 when it was incorporated into the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, which is stewarded by Parks Canada. 2003 was also the year the Mayne Island Conservancy was formed. Since 2005 the Conservancy has been working in collaboration with Parks Canada to protect and enhance the natural habitats on the property. The bulk of the work to date has focused on invasive plant management. Did you know Conservancy staff and volunteers have removed 3,227 individual daphne plants from the park since 2011? We’ve also managed other priority invasive species such as English holly (91 trees removed), English ivy (two patches removed), Himalayan blackberry, St. John’s wort, Himalayan cotoneaster, sweet briar rose, and countless Scotch broom. The removal of these priority invasive plants has been successful so far at preventing them from taking over the remaining natural areas of the Park Reserve.
Slow but Steady Habitat Restoration
In recent years, efforts have also focused on restoring native plants to the open field below the parking area. This area has a long history of agricultural use as grazing pasture and hay production. Currently it is dominated by exotic grasses and invasive shrubs such as Scotch broom and sweet briar rose. The forested ecosystem that would naturally occur here is one the rarest in the world, and a significant priority for restoration. Attempts to re-establish native trees and shrubs have met with challenges from insatiable deer, degraded soil conditions, and severe summer droughts. Despite these challenges we’ve had some success establishing Douglas fir trees throughout some areas of the 3.5-acre field, and a more diverse group of native plants in the lower, wetter section of the field within a larger fenced enclosure. It has been rewarding to observe insects and birds beginning to find homes and a source of food in the young plants. Many of the plants in the fenced area are still very young and will play a bigger role in providing food and shelter for wildlife as they set roots and begin to grow more quickly. In the long term we envision a natural forest community teeming with native creatures and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Youth and Community Engagement
One of our goals as part of this and other restoration projects across Mayne Island has been to engage our community in the habitat restoration process. It’s all too easy to assume some government agency will take care of all our environmental stewardship needs, but the reality is the task is too big not to have everyone involved. With only a handful of parks on Mayne Island, it is essential that private landowners have the knowledge and skills to steward their own lands. The habitat restoration project also offers excellent opportunities for school-age community members to get involved. With big issues such as climate change and ocean pollution looming over younger generations, the challenges they face can seem overwhelming. Projects such as this allow them to contribute to environmental stewardship in a tangible way.
Cause for Thanks
We want to thank the partners and supporters who have made the successes of this restoration project possible so far. Parks Canada has provided staff and volunteer support as well as expertise in archaeological assessments and liaising with First Nations Cultural Monitors. Funding for our staff time and materials has been provided over the years by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Province of British Columbia, the Victoria Foundation, and SeaChange Marine Conservation Society. Local community volunteers have played an essential role, investing 700 hours over the past decade.
Come Join Us
This fall we’ll be organizing a few work parties at Bennett Bay to plant native trees and shrubs and remove invasive plants. If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, we invite you to join us. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org expressing interest in volunteering and we will add you to our email list for Habitat Restoration events.