Sharon Hope, executive director of Friends of North Saanich Parks (FNSP), said events like Saturday’s clean up of North Saanich’s Gulf View Park, also help to create a sense of community among and beyond volunteers. (Sharon Hope/Submitted)

Volunteers shake off pandemic, return to war against invasive plants

Friends of North Saanich Parks strip one ton of invasive plants from greenspace

Some 11 volunteers invested a total of 40 hours to remove about one ton worth of invasive plants from North Saanich’s Gulf View Park last weekend.

“Environmentally and ecologically, it is very important to preserve these [parks],” said Sharon Hope, executive director of the Friends of North Saanich Parks (FNSP), which organized the clean-up event.

The July 11 clean-up marked the first official return to the park since February. On July 5, some group members had partnered up with members of the Victoria Green Team for a clean-up at the park.

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Saturday’s event was the 12th time that FNSP worked in the park to remove invasive plants and Hope estimates these efforts have yielded five tons of material.

Gulf View Park, a public park since 1936, is located almost directly opposite of the roadway leading into John Dean Park. Hope said the group’s initial survey of the park left her horrified. “It was completely overgrown with ivy and Himalayan blackberry, and also a domestic plant called Privet, which is usually used for hedges,” she said. “It was quite depressing to look at.”

Al Michel, a group member since April 2019 and a retired electrician in his 8os living quite close to the park, led earlier efforts to clean up the park. These efforts then approached another peak earlier this year, when one of the group’s younger and stronger volunteers lost his job in the middle of March. “And that meant that he was spending an average of four hours per day, six days a week for three months [cleaning up],” Hope said.

The group has implemented strict social distancing protocols to balance public health with the benefits of working outdoors, while helping restore nature to a more original state. The group has officially been in action since mid-June with safety remaining an important consideration regardless of the circumstances.

“Safety is quite important to us, not only during COVID-19, but during our normal proceedings as well,” said Hope.

Looking at the big picture, Hope said that these events enhance the ecological state of local parks and create a sense of community with more work looming on the horizon. “We are only involved with six parks right now,” she said. “But there are in actual fact 24 parks in North Saanich alone that need some sort of assistance. So we are a very long way from accomplishing that goal.”

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This said, events like Saturday’s also send a large message. “There is power in people,” said Hope. “They have the ability to change the environment. It’s something that can be done overnight. It has to be done on a fairly scale, but if more and more people become involved, there is a landscape transformation.”

FNSP’s next events take place on Saturday, July 25 and Aug. 1, both from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Nymph Point Park. For more information about volunteering visit fnsp.ca.

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