Saanich residents and members of the newly formed Friends of Cedar Hill Park Society took part in an invasive species pull at Cedar Hill Park in late May. The group hopes to promote the short- and long-term protection and maintenance of the popular park.

Friends of Cedar Hill Park aim for long-term sustainability

New citizen group in Saanich focuses on invasive species removal, future plans for popular park

A newly established citizen group in Saanich is already making an impact in Cedar Hill Park.

The Friends of Cedar Hill Park Society, which formed after Saanich council opposed a divisive plan to build a clay court tennis facility behind the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, is already holding weekly invasive species removal events to maintain the park in the short-term.

“Whereas something like the clay courts will motivate a lot of people in opposition, we didn’t think we could count on people to show up when it comes to the work of maintaining the park, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said Peter Haddon, a member of the Society.

In late May more than 30 park lovers turned out to a weekend clean-up of Bowker Creek, removing invasive blackberry, broom and ivy from around the waterway.

“We could almost feel the creek breathing a sigh of relief,” Haddon said. “The parks department doesn’t have the resources to clean out a lot of this – it’s very labour intensive. It’s reasonable that volunteers step up and put some time into it for the sake of the community.”

In addition to periodic Saturday morning clean-ups, Society volunteers, along with Saanich’s Pulling Together Program volunteers, are out every Monday in the park removing invasive vegetation.

“It’s really fun because while you’re chomping away at all the blackberry and so forth, you get to chat to people, talk about the park and talk about the community. It really creates a sense of community and a sense of the value of the park,” Haddon said.

While this short-term plan to clean the park will remain ongoing, the Friends of Cedar Hill Park Society hope it develops into a long-term plan for the park.

The goal is to eventually see a master plan created for the park that highlights the natural and recreation uses, and how to balance them with the interests of all users.

“If we’re not looking after the park and if we’re not engaged, then who know what will happen? It’s a funny thing; people can look at that space and say, ‘It’s unused, it’s unkept. We can take it over for our purposes,’ and that is still a real possibility in the future,” Haddon said. “I think a lot of people in the community are quite settled on what we have now is the best outcome.”

To get involved with the Friends of Cedar Hill Park Society or to get updates on where in the park the weekly clean-ups are happening, email friendsofcedarhillpark@gmail.com.

editor@saanichnews.com