The Capital Regional District has given interim approval to the document guiding actions in the region’s parks and trails over the next decade.
The vision in the Regional Parks and Trails Strategy is for an expanded and connected system of regional parks and trails by 2032. The 70-page plan sets goals on fostering resiliency to and action on climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, conserving and protecting more natural land, making spaces accessible to all and providing enjoyable recreation.
There are currently 32 parks and four regional trails in the CRD, making up 13,200 hectares of land or about 5.5 per cent of the region’s total land base.
The document recognizes the immense benefits of regional parks and how planning is needed now “to protect those natural areas that are vital to the long-term health of the region’s natural environment, cultural heritage and the health of people and communities.
But it also mentions the stressors on the system, like increasing visitorship and climate change-spurred extreme weather. The 10-year plan says it will be a challenge to increase park enjoyment and conservation efforts amid pressure from a growing regional population and the resulting development.
The CRD looks to involve parks in preparing for climate change by enhancing the active transportation trail network, advocating for transit to regional parks and improving capacity to both mitigate and adapt to shifting normals through carbon sequestration, water storage and buffering severe weather events.
Three bioclimactic zones encompass the CRD. One of those is the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) zone – home to the highest number of species and ecosystems at risk in B.C. The plan says the CDF zone is the least protected in the province while the CRD currently protects four per cent of all CDF in its borders. Capital Region parks are also home to 133 species that are either federally or provincially considered to be at risk.
Conservation actions in the plan range from short-term assessments to hitting long-term protection targets.
The document commits to building stronger relationships with the region’s First Nations. The plan was approved on an interim basis in order to get started on projects while continuing First Nations engagement over the next year.
Reconciliation can be supported, the plan states, through incorporating traditional knowledge in park management decisions, continuing to recognize traditional place names and involving First Nations in restoration projects. The lands also hold cultural value as being vital for telling the history of the region, the plan says.
A 2021 pilot program to explore the cultural significance of the areas through a First Peoples lens will continue this year.
Implementation of the strategy will be monitored and it can still be amended over the next decade.
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