As the use of regional parks continues to climb, keeping up with protecting and monitoring their ecological value and biodiversity will take additional staff and resources, according to a Capital Regional District report.
The CRD document stated challenges to the regional parks conservation program include staffing and resources, a lack of strategy focused on park condition and monitoring, and a rapid increase in the size and visitation of the natural areas.
Parks and trails are seeing significant growth – 20 to 25 per cent annually since 2019 – in visitors and the report said this puts pressure on the system and “can make protecting and monitoring regional park values and biodiversity challenging.”
A comprehensive budget review aimed at identifying staffing and resource needs required to meet core service levels found “the lack of an ecological monitoring program was also identified as a key gap in the delivery of core conservation program services,” the report reads.
A comprehensive monitoring program, which doesn’t currently exist, would benefit the environmental health of regional parks, the report adds. When resources allow, the CRD conducts studies that identify sensitive or rare species and ecosystems, along with critical wildlife habitats. However, there are still gaps in understanding parks’ ecological values.
“Improving the understanding of ecological values and biodiversity in regional parks will benefit overall ecological integrity and environmental health and contribute to climate change resiliency,” the report states.
A draft conservation strategy for CRD parks was prepared in 2010 and outlined a “practical, science-based approach to reduce negative impacts to ecological values within regional parks.” It was presented at the committee level twice that year and got referred back to staff for more work both times. The conservation plan was revised, but after being put on hold it was never adopted and deferred with no specific deadline.
The 2012-2021 Regional Parks Strategic Plan is now set for an update that the CRD said will include conservation and recreation strategies being developed. In January, staff will also report back to the parks committee on the advisability of adopting the draft conservation strategy on an interim basis, pending an update to the document.
The report highlighted parks as critical natural assets for sequestering carbon emissions.
Regional parks “regulate our climate, purify the water, provide habitat for rare and endangered species and provide opportunities to engage in a wide range of recreational activities,” the report said.
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