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Saanich urban forest purchased as future parkland

CRD and Habitat Acquisition Trust purchase 50-acre Mountain Road property for $3.4 million
The new CRD parklands near Saanich’s Mountain Road and Camosun College Interurban Campus. (Google Maps)

Fifty acres of urban forest in Saanich will be forever preserved following its purchase by the Capital Regional District and Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT).

The second-growth coastal Douglas fir forest near Saanich’s Mountain Road and Camosun College’s Interurban campus features Garry oak, arbutus strands and rock outcrop and is home to the western screech owl and common nighthawk. The CRD described their habitat as one of “Canada’s most rare and imperilled ecosystems,” in a press release.

The property will be converted into a regional park within the CRD’s parks system, HAT executive director Katie Blake told Black Press Media, following a process of management planning which will be completed by early spring. While other CRD parks change direction in their planning over time, a conservation covenant made with HAT will ensure that Mountain Forest Road is always prioritized for ecological preservation, Blake said.

As for features, Blake said low-impact recreation such as existing hiking trails will be maintained by the district.

The land’s former owners were a local family who had owned the land for half a century, according to the press release. Its purchase was made using $2 million from the district’s acquisition fund and a donation of $1.2 million from over 1,440 individuals at a Habitat Acquisition Trust fundraiser.

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The remaining balance of the $3.4 million purchase price was compensated by the former owner’s family. They told the CRD: “We are delighted that our father’s 30-plus year love affair with this wonderful forest, and our dream of preserving it as green space in perpetuity in his memory, have both been honoured. We will always be extremely grateful to the many individuals and organizations who helped make it possible.”

A park name will be decided with the process of management planning with input from the former owner’s family and community donors.

Blake thanked the community, from the bottom of her heart, for their donations towards the purchase. “This is a monumental accomplishment, and we couldn’t have done it without you,” she said.

“The CRD recognizes the values of the Mountain Road property,” said CRD board chair Colin Plant. “This purchase will ensure its natural beauty can be protected for future generations. Thank you to the Habitat Acquisition Trust for working with us to secure this sensitive ecosystem.”

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