Damage unleashed on sensitive Oak Bay park as dog popularity rises

Consultant recommends off-leash area at Uplands Park, ambassadors, trail improvements

Margaret Lidkea has led the charge, through Friends of Uplands Park, to restore parks in the community since 1992 and Oak Bay should prepare for her retirement, a consultant suggests. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Margaret Lidkea has led the charge, through Friends of Uplands Park, to restore parks in the community since 1992 and Oak Bay should prepare for her retirement, a consultant suggests. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic Uplands Park may have proved too popular.

It seems many people in the region discovered, or rediscovered, the vast natural space in Oak Bay, said Wylie Thomas, a contractor providing council with an update Oct. 25 on the stewardship and federally supported restoration projects in the community, including Uplands Park.

“We may find they’re here to stay,” Thomas said. He noted – as many have – that the University of Victoria closed its green space commonly called Cedar Hill Corners in spring 2020, citing concerns over COVID-19. It had become a popular de facto dog park over the years and did not reopen to the public.

People found the 76 acres of natural lands at Uplands, featuring several Garry oak meadows that appear ideal for off-leash dog use.

RELATED: Vacant lot now closed at UVic had become a popular place for dog walkers

There are 25 endangered species found in Oak Bay parks, 20 of them in Uplands Park. Thomas said he and volunteers with the Friends of Uplands Park politely educate users who don’t realize the camas fields lay hidden in summer. Most happily move along, he said.

The paths in Uplands Park flood in the winter pushing users into sensitive ecosysteams. (Wylie Thomas photo)

His recommendations for the park include designation of an area for dogs off leash and development of a parks ambassador program. He also urges upgrades to the trail system (building up those that flood) and signage including fencing off some areas. Signage and fencing have been used in the past to protect particularly sensitive areas for periods of time – such as the central meadow in the winter.

Many of the recommendations harken back to the management for the park that council adopted in 2019.

READ ALSO: Sensitive meadow ecosystem in Oak Bay park closed for second winter

Work to restore the Garry oak ecosystem began in 1992 when Margaret Lidkea, now Friends of Uplands Park chair, received permission to take Girl Guides into the park to remove invasive scotch broom. Lidkea and her team continue that work and in 2016 she and Thomas started tracking volunteer hours, assigning a $10 per hour value to help track in-kind donations from the community.

Thomas reported nearly $1 million in cash and in-kind offerings spent on park restoration throughout Oak Bay for 2021 – including nearly $247,000 from the federal government, $301,579 from the district and $390,283 through the community and Friends of Uplands Park.

Thomas also noted the district should consider starting to plan now, for when Lidkea retires from the position.

Find the full report on the Oct. 25 agenda online at oakbay.civicweb.net.

READ ALSO: Garry oaks, camas reveal agricultural impacts of colonialism on Vancouver Island

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca


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