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Decades of conservation work in Oak Bay park draws international attention

Conservation coaches lunch and learn at Willows, Cattle Point

Oak Bay municipal staff and generations of volunteers make conservation work seem like a walk in the park – Uplands Park to be specific.

The ongoing remediation and preservation of the 76-acre natural park in Oak Bay is a success story attributed to integrated efforts by keen resident volunteers and district staff. Three decades ago Margaret Lidkea, the longtime leader of Friends of Uplands Park, gained permission to take Girl Guides into the park to remove invasive scotch broom.

Lidkea grew up a free-range child, peddling from her Oaklands neighbourhood to parks throughout Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay. It honed her love of nature, its need to be preserved, and as a mother to share that love with the next generation. Now a grandmother, she’s spent decades honing generations of volunteers and relationships with municipal staff.

The work and support of Oak Bay Parks, spearheaded by manager Chris Hyde-Lay, is critical to the restoration, according to Lidkea.

The restoration work at Uplands Park, which boasts 20 endangered species, is the stuff of legends, which is why an international group with the global Conservation Coaches Network landed in Oak Bay on Oct. 19.

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The CCN is a group of trained professional coaches that use the Conservation Standards planning process to strengthen conservation.

Roughly every two years the network sponsors a global community meeting. Dubbed a ‘coaches’ rally,’ the trip provides an opportunity for members to connect, exchange experiences and explore evolving approaches, adaptations and tools. This year, 130 people from 20 countries met at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.

Every rally, a field trip is organized to bring people onto the land base, learning about the cultural and ecological importance of the area, and the conservation efforts conducted there, explained Laramie Ferguson.

This year, the coaches enjoyed a picnic at Willows Beach with lunch by the Songhees Nation Catering and learning from Songhees knowledge keeper Florence Dick, who provided a territorial acknowledgment and shared the cultural history and significance of the land.

Hyde-Lay, Lidkea and Wylie Thomas took the lead as the group went to Cattle Point in Uplands Park explaining the working model – thousands of volunteer hours supported in part by federal funding and the district. Seven community leaders led walks through the park, sharing their knowledge and park history.

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