(From left) Friends of North Saanich Parks executive director Sharon Hope, with volunteers Joy Douglas and Tom Richards. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Island man battling invasive horde with a set of shears

Former around-the-world sailor relentless in his battle against invasive plants

In the battle against invasive species, the Friends of North Saanich Parks (FNSP) have found a useful recruit in Tom Richards, a former around-the-world sailor who now cuts a swathe through unwelcome plants.

Richards, 63, moved to North Saanich last year from the Mainland, after six years at sea. His house backs out on to Lillian Hoffar Park, one of the areas the group works on. He saw the great work the FNSP did and joined up, helping clear unwanted plant species from the 24 out of 35 parks they have targeted.

ALSO READ: Central Saanich police see spike in suspicious circumstance calls

Centuries of ivy, Daphne, Himalayan blackberry and other alien greenery had largely been left unchecked, swamping the local flora and choking many of the native trees. Some of the species are also poisonous to humans and animals.

The soft-spoken Richards has lost 25 pounds since starting his mission and describes clearing plants as a form of mindfulness as he hunts and digs. Although he modestly lauds his colleagues, he appears to be the star performer often spending an extra 12 hours each week clearing plants on his own. In Lillian Hoffar Park alone, he has cleared three truck loads of weeds in just a few weeks.

“In this day and age when climate change and man’s impact on the whole planet is obvious, it occurred to me that you can also go back and restore. All the Ivy and Daphne that comes off the ground allows the native stuff to grow, all the herbs and different beautiful native plants, so you actually get a feeling in a small way, in a microcosm, of doing what human beings should be able to do.”

ALSO READ: Slaying dragons: getting inside the minds of climate change skeptics

Richards says he enjoys the social aspect of the work groups the most. He also says he read that if a person plants 11 trees that live for 80 years, that will cover their life’s carbon footprint.

He’s unsure if that’s true but if it is, wonders if saving 11 trees can have the same positive effect. So far, he’s saved far more than 11 trees.

The FNSP was founded by Ashlee Scanlon and Sharon Hope, who has been described as the “driving force,” and aims to restore the parks back to their former glory. They run regular clearing sessions, helped by key allies Jarrett Teague, Amanda Evans and Jim Nelson. The group relies on members of the public, school groups and scout troops to volunteer, with work parties of up to 20 on some occasions. Help is in short supply and they appreciate every person who shows up to assist. Due to the big nature of the task, to clear a 20 metre square area often takes many months and the group hope to clear 90 per cent of unwanted plants in targeted parks.

ALSO READ: Light up August with a lantern building workshop in Sidney

“It’s resetting the succession clock back to native,” says volunteer Joy Douglas, adding, “Plus you meet some great people.”

If you would like to help restore the District’s parks, visit fnsp.ca. The next scheduled clearing dates are Aug. 10 at Quarry Park and Aug. 24 at Denham Till Park. Both from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Friends will also join with the Greater Victoria Green Team, Saturday, Sept. 7 at 9:45 a.m. at Lillian Hoffar Park.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cruise ships leading culprits in rising greenhouse gas emissions at Ogden Point: report

The GVHA released its Emissions Inventory Report just days after City asks for restrictions

Guardians leaving parks on Vancouver Island’s south coast for good

Juan de Fuca Park Watch folds due, in part, to people not carrying cash any more

Vancouver Island’s West Coast going wild about cycling

Ongoing project will tie Tofino and Ucluelet together with a paved cycling trail

Vancouver Island mom says proper support lacking for dyslexics

October is International Dyslexia Awareness month

Robert Barron column: Cell phone rules in cars are clear as mud

Woman not actively using her cell should not be guilty of distracted driving

VIDEO: U.S. officials refute British couple’s ‘accidental’ border-crossing claim

Authorities say couple was arrested after illegal entry from B.C., with $16,000 and marijuana

Woman charged with numerous drug offenses stemming from a raid earlier this year at Island property

Police make arrest on an outstanding warrant dating back to January

Victoria to protect any tree that is a foot thick or more

City poised to protect trees with a circumference to 30 cm or more

Winter preparation underway for mid-Island highways

Drivers reminded to ready vehicles for changing conditions

Downtown Victoria tea shop switches to plastic tea bags

Murchie’s Tea and Coffee says the transition is temporary

Talk ‘Dirty Money’ in BC casinos with the man who knows

‘This is an evolving study’: Dr. Peter German presenting up-to-date information on organized crime

Vancouver Island RCMP bust seizes $50,000 worth of drugs

More than 300 grams of cocaine and crack-cocaine seized in Victoria

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

B.C. RCMP officer suing the force for malicious prosecution

Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth cleared of wrongdoing after misconduct hearing

Most Read