On a cool Thursday morning a group of ladies on a morning walk from Carleton House to Oak Bay Marina for coffee voice awe at the “transformation” of the trail they walk weekly.
Two Sundays a month the Friends of Brighton Walkway dig their hands into the soil adjacent to a path between St. David Street and Transit. Pulling invasive plants and exposing the earth and rock to replant with indigenous plants is an ongoing labour of love. This stretch has been under work for more than two years, but the phenomenal response they get to see with their own eyes is worth it.
“When we’re here Sundays, there are a lot of people who come through and more often than not say ‘thank you’,” said Rick Marshall, a volunteer with the group. Recently they even had a couple come through and offer a donation to purchase plants.
“We have really enjoyed seeing the improvements to the walkway on our daily walks and wanted to contribute something,” said Raymond and Yvonne Lew in a written statement.
The Brighton Walkway is a part of the Oak Bay Centennial Trail and runs from Foul Bay to Transit. A core group of six to eight volunteers meet there two Sundays a month. Some are neighbours, some hail from as far off as Saanich.
Work started around the time of the 2006 centennial celebrations in Oak Bay, but near the stairs between Victoria and Hampshire roads. “That’s pretty well established now,” Marshall said.
So more than two years ago, focus shifted to another heavily used segment between St. David and Transit.
“Before we started, it was solid ivy and non-native trees,” said volunteer Carol Davies, gesturing to the public land now planted with native species of currants and oak trees.
The team pulled reams and reams of ivy, blackberries and even trash. They’re grateful to Oak Bay Parks staff who took down invasive trees and routinely haul out the debris pulled by the volunteers.
“They’ve replaced some of those trees with oak trees,” Davies said.
The strong municipal support is augmented by people like the Lews and the Oak Bay citizen group, Green Committee, that funds plants through its ongoing recycling depot.
They’re into the second season of planting, using native plant materials purchased with those community donations and assistance from Oak Bay Parks, as well as some salvaged from development sites or propagated from the Oak Bay Native Plant Garden.
“The general idea is to return the area to a natural state,” Marshall said.
“A close approximation of what would have been here before we came,” added Davies.
The group meets at the Transit worksite on the second and fourth Sunday of each month between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. subject to inclement weather. To volunteer or donate for the cause contact Carol Davies at 250-475-4412.