Unwanted fir trees pulled from park

Feds fund three more years of Uplands Park rejuvenation

Ivy, Daphne and Scotch broom are all an expected part of Wylie Thomas’ work in Uplands Park.

The ecologist spends countless hours deciphering where to clear next in a bid to protect endangered plants. This summer he was reminded planting trees is a good thing – but not always.

“I found 24 fir tree plugs planted all over the park,” Thomas said. “The thing about the Garry oak ecosystem is that if firs get in they will out-compete the Garry oaks.”

We no longer live in the days when low and frequent fires would restore the balance of the meadow ecosystem, he said.

An introduced fir or pine – as the likely well-intentioned seedlings were – can take over the place. Thomas cites Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve in North Cowichan as a good example.

“They’ve gone in and actually girdled some naturally occurring Douglas firs because they’re moving in and pushing out the Garry oak meadows,” Thomas said.

It’s not just the conifers that show up in the park. Thomas has stumbled across freshly planted crocosmia, crocus, iris, grape hyacinth and daffodils.

“All of them planted with good intentions, I am sure,” he said.

“I love all these flowers too, especially daffodils, but have a look at Beacon Hill next spring to see what can happen. The side of the hill is now covered with daffodils which has reduced significantly the number of camas growing in that park.”

Those looking to help restore the park can check in with Oak Bay Parks or the Friends of Uplands Park who host frequent planting parties and other events throughout the year where you learn things such as optimal placing and species.

“People that want to help, should become members of the Friends of Uplands Park for free, attend our invasive removal events and public information events, check our website www.friendsofuplandspark.org and learn how and why they can become part of the restoration solution in Uplands Park,” said Margaret Lidkea, chair of FOUP.  “We would like to provide a weekly opportunity for people to be involved, including students doing their community hours for graduation.”

They introduced the No Ivy League Sunday, an ongoing event to augment work in the park.

“It’s a moniker that has been used down in the States before, that’s why we’re doing the play on words,” Lidkea said.

The focus this fall is English ivy removal on Cattle Point.

“This group of people, the No Ivy League, will be essential for the ivy removing goals of the management plan,” Thomas said.

It builds on work started this summer, as soon as Thomas learned in August that Oak Bay earned funding from the federal Habitat Stewardship Program to support restoration work in Uplands Park to protect one of the highest concentrations of rare and endangered plants anywhere in Canada. The grant, more than $100,000 spread out over three years, supports hiring a summer crew to remove invasive plants from the park, formalizing trails, installing signage and planting native forbs and grasses.

The grant is made possible by in-kind contributions from Oak Bay Parks and from the community, Thomas said. In 2015, 490 volunteers from Friends of Uplands Park spent a total of 1,077 hours removing invasive plants and planting natives.

“The goal over time will be to remove as much of the ivy from the woods on the water side (of the loop road) as possible,” Thomas said. “The focus is going to be on Cattle point because we have a crew in removing from endangered plant habitat. The No Ivy League will build on that.”

The No Ivy League meets each Sunday through to Nov. 27.

Tools and gloves will be provided, instruction given, and areas to work in determined by Oak Bay Parks management plan.

“We want to try and create more people who are really connected to the park,” Lidkea said.

The weekly restoration group meets each Sunday 1 to 3 p.m. in Uplands Park, at the grassy field on Beach Drive at the entrance to Cattle Point. To learn more email mlidkea@shaw.ca.