The District of Saanich is home to many lush parks, and it’s now one step closer to adding yet another 50-acre regional park full of tall trees and winding trails to the list.
On Jan. 12, Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) and Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes issued a joint challenge to the Greater Victoria region: help raise $1 million in 100 days to create a new regional park on the heavily treed property near Prospect Lake referred to as the Mountain Road Forest.
At the end of 2020, the Capital Regional District announced that it would be contributing $2 million towards the $3.4-million purchase of the Mountain Road Forest property to establish a new regional park in partnership with HAT.
In order for the purchase to be completed, HAT needs to raise its $1.4-million contribution by April 22, Earth Day 2021.
The property, located in rural Saanich, has been owned by the same family since 1971 and was recently put on the market, explained Katie Blake, executive director of HAT. The sellers, who wish to remain anonymous, offered to match the $200,000 in donations that have already been made so HAT only has $1 million to go.
“We are excited to play a part in protecting this beloved forest,” Blake said. “Not only is it a beautiful place to enjoy nature, it is an important part of the globally imperiled Coastal Douglas fir and Garry oak ecosystems, and home to lots of at-risk species.”
For Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, the decision to join the fundraising efforts was an easy one. His family used to live just down the road when they first came to the Island and he still lives nearby.
“This is the glory of the West Coast,” he said, standing on the trail and gesturing to the large trees surrounding him. “It’s essential we protect it.”
Haynes added that the 50-acre property also connects to other green spaces nearby that span all the way to Prospect Lake Road and said “we’re optimistic that as time moves forward, we’ll be able to get that area as well” to add to the park.
Protecting green spaces is “a big part” of Saanich’s Climate Action Plan and efforts to “future-proof the region,” Haynes explained.
He’s grateful that the CRD contributed $2 million from the Park Acquisition Fund and is hopeful that the community and local businesses alike will step up to secure the purchase of the future regional park.
The CRD has also committed to matching the first $200,000 raised by the community, Blake noted. HAT will also issue a commemorative deed to residents and businesses that donate $100 or more.
“Please come and enjoy the space” and donate what you can, Haynes said, adding that he’s optimistic that the $1 million in 100 days goal can be reached. He noted that in partnership with HAT and ecology experts, he’s offered to do tours of the property.
Anyone interested in accessing the property for a hike will find it at the end of Excelsior Road, off Goward Road, which is just off Interurban Road in Saanich. Information sheets that explain the fundraiser are also available in a box near the trailhead.
To donate, visit mountainroadforest.ca or contact HAT at 250-995-2428.