I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Esquimalt Lagoon Restoration Walk

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to check out Esquimalt Lagoon and Bee Creek during another Restoration Walk like the one at Viaduct Flats.  I have lived in Victoria for almost 14 years and only driven over Ocean Boulevard once - and did not stop.  It is not hard to appreciate the beauty of this place.  There were many photographers on the shore and I saw one hurrying down the beach with a large camera.  Given that it is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary there is no shortage of bird activity.  I saw many types of birds that I was not familiar with.

Esquimalt Lagoon

As you can see we lucked out with beautiful weather that morning.  Our group was guided by a woman named Kitty from the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative (ELSI).  She started us off with a brief history lesson of how the lagoon was formed.  Over 13,000 years ago when an ice sheet retreated a large piece was left behind.  As this piece melted, the gravel that washed out settled around the ice and created the boundaries of the lagoon. 

The lagoon is a very dynamic environment and as such is a challenge to restore and maintain.  Erosion of the barrier spit, the Coburg Peninsula, is a primary concern.  I found an article written in April of 2008 entitled Coburg Peninsula Eroding outlining concerns and possible solutions after a particularly nasty storm caused significant erosion resulting in the bridge and other infrastructure being "exposed to more aggressive waves and debris".  In July 2010 an article appeared in the Times Colonist about the repair of the Esquimalt Lagoon Bridge after the bridge was closed to traffic for some time in early 2010.  Beyond concerns for the bridge there are concerns for the lagoon as a whole.

ELSI is a group that was founded in 2001 to help protect the lagoon, by preventing further loss of habitat, reducing contaminants, restoring degraded areas, and educating the public, among other things.  Due to the large number of groups with an interest in the lagoon there are many partners at the table.  Just to name a few: Department of National Defense, Songhees Nation, Royal Roads University, Canadian Wildlife Service...check out the ELSI website for a complete list.  Two of the projects Kitty spoke to our group about were the restoration work taking place on the spit (dune restoration), and that taking place on the banks of a couple of the creeks leading into the lagoon. 

Besides erosion the dunes have suffered in large part due to trampling from parked vehicles and foot traffic.  In 2006 ELSI received a grant to help with dune restoration.  They used this initial funding to try and minimize the impact of these two activities.  By moving large logs into place lengthwise along the shoulder they removed approximately 26 parking spaces that allowed vehicles to park on the dune perpendicular to Ocean Boulevard.  A series of benches and garbage cans were also installed to try and mark trails down to the beach in order to concentrate foot traffic in those areas.  This last effort seems to be the most difficult to maintain as every winter the ocean tosses driftwood all over the beach and often blurs the lines of these pathways.  More recent efforts include removal of invasive plants such as scotch broom, ivy and himalayan blackberry, and planting of dune grass, gum weed, and beach pea.  Bunch grasses are important for preserving the dune as they have deep roots which help hold the sand in place.  As you can imagine parking vehicles, and constant foot traffic have taken their toll.  Luckily the volunteers are a persistent group.

From the dunes we made our way around the lagoon to Bee Creek.  On the way we walked through an area of land which is the site of the Aquattro Development.  Before development this area was farming land owned by the Ridley Family.  One of the conditions of development was that Aquattro set aside 40% of the land for a park.  Selleck Creek runs through this property and a large section of it is currently diverted and underground, but day lighting the creek was also part of the development plan.  Prior to the project going into receivership you can see that efforts were made to daylight and restore sections near the completed condos.  For the time being things are on hold.

A short distance away we arrived at Bee Creek near the entrance to a piece of property previously utilized by the Pacific Family Services Centre.  Bee creek begins at Royal Roads and runs down to the lagoon through this property that is now slated for development.  Fortunately the new owners have incorporated a 15 metre protected area on either side of the creek and have also provided some funding for restoration projects on the creek.  Past and current projects include removing silt, suppressing canary reed grass on the banks of the creek, planting native species when funding allows, and an ongoing study of the fish found in the creek.  As you can see their work has paid off. 

Bee Creek

It is a beautiful piece of property to walk through and is open to the public.  If you enter the property and follow the road it goes over a little bridge and towards the lagoon.  There you will find the Coast Collective Art Gallery.  I had no idea that this little place even existed.  There is a grassy area on one side that looks perfect for a picnic and it just has a calming, peaceful feel to it.

Both of the areas we toured with Kitty were beautiful in their own right.  There are washrooms located on the western end of Ocean Boulevard and no shortage of logs on the beach to sit on.  If you are so inclined take your bird book and binoculars!  If you are into art pack a picnic and after you are done enjoying the gallery spend some time outside near Bee Creek.

The "Toe" of the Lagoon

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