We know that spending time in nature is essential to our wellness – it not only provides an opportunity for increased activity and creativity, but significant benefits to our health.
It was with that in mind that Japan developed the idea of forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku – using your five senses to experience nature, explains Saanich’s Jason Clarke. While strolling through Mt. Douglas Park, for example, hear the birds singing, see sunlight streaming through the leaves, smell the earthy scent, feel the tree trunks and taste the freshness in the air.
The importance of accessing these natural spaces is just one reason Saanich Parks works to preserve its urban forest. Here’s a look at Jason’s must-visit significant trees and standout locations – perfect for exploring this summer!
- Goward Park – Significant tree #124 is a coast redwood. The species’ natural range is currently confined to a coastal strip about 725 kilometres long from southwest Oregon to the middle of California. However, “the trees do amazingly well here, showing what a unique climate we have on the Island,” Jason says, noting Goward Park also features wonderful native gardens to wander, looked after by a passionate volunteer group.
- Swan Lake Christmas Hill Park – Three massive black cottonwoods – together designated as significant tree #176 – grow in the wetlands here. Try to wrap your arms around their massive trunks and stare up at their 40-metre canopies.
- Bruce Hutchinson Park – Significant trees #160 are two mature Garry oaks – two giants protected during the area’s development, showing how resilient Garry oaks are, Jason says. Wander the trails through the Garry oak meadow with camas and succession plantings of young Garry oaks.
More standout locations
Playfair Park – Home to a significant, rare remnant of deep-soil Garry oak woodland meadows once much more common in Greater Victoria, the 0.85-hectare meadow is a Garry Oak Restoration Project site. “Despite its small size, this site retains a high diversity of plants unique to Garry oak ecosystems and features an impressive display of spring flowers, including great camas, common camas, western buttercup, shooting star and chocolate lily, and the extremely rare species at risk Yellow Montane Violet, which only occurs in 14 mainly small, localized populations on Vancouver Island,” Jason says.
Mount Douglas Park – At 188 ha, this park contains the largest urban forest on the Saanich Peninsula. Explore this forest on more than 21kms of trails as you wander past Douglas firs and grand firs more than 40m tall, and climb to the summit for an outstanding 360-degree view of Greater Victoria. Closer to Douglas Creek below, see towering Western red cedar and large moss-covered big leaf maples.
Doumac Park – This forested 4.53-hectare neighbourhood park in Cordova Bay follows the topography of the ravine along Revans Creek, with some of the rustic trails accessible only by long wooden staircases. Home to the largest Western hemlocks in Saanich, plus massive Douglas firs, grand firs and big leaf maples all 40m tall, “it’s a throwback to a prehistoric world with huge ferns on the banks and forest floor, and contorted trees and overgrown stumps covered in moss.”
So much to discover – plan your urban forest adventure today with Saanich Parks!