Trial Island pull puts Green Team to use

Cleanup crew continues work on restoring land around the federally designated heritage lighthouse

The Greater Victoria Green Team lends a collective hand with invasive species removal on Trial Island.

The Greater Victoria Green Team lends a collective hand with invasive species removal on Trial Island.

Trial Island’s ivy population is on a dramatic decline, just the way conservation biologist Matt Fairbarns likes it.

The project co-ordinator for the island off Oak Bay picked it up more than a decade ago, slowly removing invasive species.

“So far we have achieved probably the most surprising thing, we’ve managed to take out all the big Scotch broom and now all we have is the little Scotch broom,” he said. “That’s quite an achievement. … Now we’re clearing out large patches of ivy, likely brought in by seed in the guts of birds.”

The island features 99 per cent of the global population of Victoria’s Owl-clover as well as the “globally rare and attractive wildflower” golden paintbrush.

“We seem to have this little nexus of evolution in the Gulf Islands and Puget Sound. … We have a lot of species found in that region and nowhere else in the world.”

Fairbarns is the volunteer warden for Trial Island, which has a huge ecological reserve and boasts a federally designated heritage lighthouse.

“I keep an eye on the rare species and that kind of thing on a volunteer basis … as long as I’m alive and kicking I’ll probably keep working on this,” he said. “The long-term aim is to wipe all of the ivy off Trial Island. Once we wipe something out, it’s very easy to stay on top of it. We’re just working our way across Trial Island restoring it piece by piece.”

Fairbarns had the help of the Greater Victoria Green Team, which celebrated its first anniversary Aug. 18, for a major pulling party earlier this month.

Among the various environmental activities around the region over its inaugural year the team has built fences to protect plants on Discovery Island and pulled invasive species in Uplands Park.

“The Greater Victoria Green Team had a fantastic first year, we organized 63 environmental and hands-on activities throughout the CRD,” said Amanda Evans, program manager for the Greater Victoria Green Team.

“Some of the memorable moments included our volunteer trip to Discovery Island, helping out at some amazing local urban farms like Mason Street Farm and City Harvest Co-op, and our tree and shrub-planting throughout Esquimalt parks.”

The team is part of the charity Green Teams of Canada that also has a four-year-old Lower Mainland Green Team.

“Our second year is starting off strong with nine activities in September, and 14 or so more to follow before 2016,” Evans said. “This year we will be organizing more youth-focused activities where middle school and high school classes will be participating in outdoor hands-on and environmental activities in local parks.”

Teachers interested in participating in the free program can contact amanda@greenteamscanada.ca.