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News

Hornby Island Students Help Restore Helliwell Meadows

Neil Wilson (L) and Senior BC Parks Ranger Jason Straka replace weeds with native plants grown by the Hornby Island Natura History Society.

Neil Wilson (L) and Senior BC Parks Ranger Jason Straka replace weeds with native plants grown by the Hornby Island Natural History Society.

Nature is a great teacher. This fall, ten of Daniel Farrow’s grade 4-8 students from Hornby Island Community School learned how people and nature can work together to rejuvenate a coastal bluff meadow in Helliwell Provincial Park.

The first task was to prepare the site by removing unwanted plants. The students pulled a lot of weeds, including 127 Hairy Cat’s Ear, 2 Bull Thistles, and 89 clumps of non-native grass. Then, with guidance from BC Parks staff (Conservation Specialist Erica McClaren and Senior Park Ranger Jason Straka), they installed native plants that were grown by The Hornby Island Natural History Society. According to Erica, “it was wonderful to have the Natural History Society and local community school kids involved in the habitat restoration work in Helliwell. The kids worked really hard and I think they enjoyed it too.” They planted 177 Blue Wildrye, 131 California Brome, and 99 Woolly Sunflower plants!

The event was part of an on-going effort to enhance the coastal bluff habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife. There have been several other weeding and planting sessions since the restoration project began in the spring of 2015. The most recent work occurred in early November. Kristen and James Miskelly of Saanich Native Plants Nursery and Consulting weeded the site and planted 13 indigenous species, such as Common Camas, Wild Strawberry, Hairy Paintbrush, Yarrow, and several types of native grass. Additional planting and weeding is planned for 2018.

The lack of natural forest fires has caused coastal bluff ecosystems to become shaded out by tree ingrowth. Therefore, part of the Helliwell Provincial Park restoration work involves tree limbing and selective tree removal. There will be more of these habitat maintenance activities in January and the fall of 2018.

For more information about the restoration project, or to volunteer, please contact: Erica McClaren (BC Parks Conservation Specialist) at 250-337-2427, or Derek Moore (BC Parks Areas supervisor for Von Donop Area) at 250-337-2410.

This project is supported by federal government Habitat Stewardship Program funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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