Ecokeepers care for the land

Since Oct. 18 students in Grade 6 to 8 at Monterey middle school have removed invasive species in Anderson Hill Park

Monterey middle school students Quinton Wilson

Anderson Hill Park is in good hands this fall.

For an hour every Wednesday since Oct. 18 students in Grade 6 to 8 at Monterey middle school have removed invasive species in the park.

Under the direction of Grade 6 teacher Mark Brown and in conjunction with Oak Bay Parks, the Ecokeepers, a school-wide enrichment group, last year cleared a Garry Oak glen of ivy. This year’s work began with trees, Brown said, which are now able to grow freely and leave their golden leaves on the ground, rather than among the suffocating ivy.

“We’re really pleased with the project because all kinds of indigenous plants have come up in place (of the ivy),” Brown said.

This year the Ecokeepers focused on cutting back gorse and broom. While adult volunteers pulled much of the larger gorse bushes, the students have attacked the newer growth. They then covered the ground with newspapers and a thick layer of leaf mulch. Since the invasive plants thrive in the sun, the hope is to see only the camas bulbs surface in the spring.

The process has not only given the kids an opportunity to put in a little elbow grease hauling tarps of gorse down the hill and returning with loads of mulch, Brown said, but they’ve also gained practical gardening skills, with equipment provided by the Friends of Uplands Park Society.

“The kids have been really good troopers,” he said, adding: “When you’re pulling invasive weeds you’re never really done.”

The project will continue in the spring with the help of volunteers Christina Johnson-Dean and Margaret Lidkea, as well as the district of Oak Bay, which provided the leaf mulch.

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