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Student work sessions clear Trafalgar Park

Groups of students in Grades 3 to 5 swarm Trafalgar Park on a regular basis, decimating the invasive gorse.

“It’s really fun,” says Abigail Avison, among the Grade 5 students from Margaret Jenkins school cutting and pulling theprickly plant.

“And we’re saving an ecosystem that took 10,000 years to create,” adds Turquoise Chiang.

The two girls are among dozens of students who routinely put in the sweat equity to clear invasive species, primarily theprickly gorse, from the park to make way for things such as the camas and other plants indigenous to the bluff habitat.Since last fall, Grade 3, 4 and 5 students from École Margaret Jenkins School and Friends of Uplands Park volunteers co-ordinated cutting invasive gorse and Scotch broom in the 1.4-hectare Trafalgar Park. Three days a week a class spends twohours working in the vertical park that overlooks Trial Island.

“We have been coming to Trafalgar park since October last year as a team-building activity for the class as well as toremove invasive species because we have been studying nature, invasive species, native plants and birds and counting birdsas part of my outdoor science program,” teacher Sandra Gabaglia. “Hopefully by next year we will start planting nativespecies as well and reclaiming the Garry oak habitat here.”

Gabaglia has classes committed to the project that could take three years, though they stop work by April to avoiddamaging the native species on site.

“It’s our neighbourhood school, our neighbourhood park. We will come back here to continue our bird watching unit,” shesaid.

At the edge of Oak Bay, Trafalgar features a rocky bluff Garry oak ecosystem, invaded by gorse a cousin to the Scotchbroom. Both love the climate, but aren’t native to the area, says Margaret Lidkea, chair of Friends of Uplands Park. Sheforged the program at Trafalgar because it’s a short walk for Margaret Jenkins students.

“This is an outreach program for Friends of Uplands Park and it’s to get kids out in their natural environment, learning on aproject-based outdoor activity,” Lidkea said. “They are just so wonderful you should see how enthusiastic they are.They’ve taken on this park as their own.”

She says the support of council is also critical in funding and the Oak Bay parks department hauls away the snipped gorseand when they can, deal with trunks and roots left behind.

They’ve also discovered remnants of fire among the dense bush, another concern for Lidkea, citing insurance costs and thecedar shake siding on adjacent homes.

“They’ve taken a really big hold here and covered these bluffs and blocked out the natural native wildflowers and otherplants growing here which the animals rely on,” Lidkea said. “Yes, some of these bushes provide shelter, but neither ofthose plants provides food for them.”

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