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101 - 1041 Richardson St
Victoria, BC
V8V 3C6
(250) 380-5023

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Friends of Beacon Hill Park

Who Are Friends of Beacon Hill Park?

In 1989, The Friends of Beacon Hill Park was formed from the earlier Friends of the Southeast Woods. The native trees and underbrush still stand from before the land was designated as a Park on the corner of Dallas Road and Cook Street. This groups made a studied report with observations, cataloguing wildlife, and speaking to neighbours and biology experts.

The following section is exerpted from The Victoria Naturalist, Victoria Natural History Society, September/October 1989 Vol. 46.2 Beacon Hill Park: An Update By Anne Fletcher of the Friends of Beacon Hill Park

In the spring of this year a group calling itself the Friends of the Southeast Wood was formed to fight for the preservation of the natural wooded area that makes up the southeast portion of Beacon Hill Park. City Council was at the time considering a proposal to clear extensive areas of the wood in response to concerns about offensive uses of the park and perceived threats to personal security. We (the Friends) presented a proposal to Council suggesting alternative solutions to these problems (see the July/ August issue of The Naturalist), and convinced the City to postpone the intended clearing for several months until the effectiveness of our proposals could be evaluated. Our group has since registered as a non-profit society under the name the Friends of Beacon Hill Park, reflecting our broader concerns with the natural and human history of the park as a whole. Over the summer we have continued to lobby for special status for the wild, uncultivated areas of the park, and have begun to implement some of our plans for establishing a positive presence in the Southeast Wood. These plans include developing a system of clearly defined nature trails and offering nature walks and interpretive programs in the area.

The original "stay of execution" for the Southeast Wood was to have been until mid-September, but at this August meeting the Parks and Recreation Commission decided to recommend to City Council that this period be further extended until its Beacon Hill sub-committee could meet with our group and look in greater detail at our proposals.

In June we conducted a survey of residents living next to the Wood (along lower Cook Street) and found that almost all of them support what we are doing. This was quite a relief, since we had been led to believe that most of them wanted the area cleared. On the contrary, most reported having no problems with the area, though a few neighbours said they were bothered by noise such as squealing of tires or people drinking or walking up Cook Street after leaving Clover Point or the beach below Cook Street, and do not originate in the park. �survey conducted by the Victoria City Police yielded substantially the same results.

We began our nature and history walks in mid-July and continue to recruit volunteers to conduct special walks focusing on such themes as seabirds, and seashore life, ethnobotany, geology, heritage trees, native history and the history of the Hudson's Bay Company. The walks have been particularly popular with residents of James Bay and Fairfield, but we've also had visitors from Edmonton, Toronto, and Texas. We recently cooperated with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Victoria Centre) and the Royal British Columbia Museum in setting up telescopes on Beacon Hill for viewing Neptune during the Voyageur II fly-past (August 21 to 26).

Construction of nature trails has not yet begun. We have proposed a four foot wide trail in the north and south sides of the Wood. Since part of the north side is under water from approximately October to the end of April, we would need to construct several boardwalks in this area. The south side is a drier coastal shrub area and therefore does not present the same sort of trail-building problems. We've been told that the birds were affected when the middle area was cleared of underbrush in 1985. Our long-term plans are to replant this area with native plants that are food for birds, and with wildflowers to encourage more people to visit the area. We also propose closing off unwanted trails and replanting them with native plants.

Don Anderson, Director of Parks, seems very concerned about protecting the wet north area in particular. Laura Acton and Tom Loring, who are on the Beacon Hill sub-committee, are also very supportive of our efforts, so we have good reason to hope that things will work out well. In addition we have the support of the Victoria Natural History Society, the Greenbelt Society, and botanists at the Royal British Columbia Museum.

The Friends are encouraged by the results of the neighbourhood survey, the popularity of our nature walks, and the support we have been receiving from other Victorians, and we are excited about the interpretive programs being planned for the future and the possibility of a history and nature center. Political lobbying has consumed much of our time so far, but this has by necessary to ensure the preservation of the area. Our group has now become part of the history of Beacon Hill Park, and we hope that 100 years from now someone giving history and nature walk will speak favourably of our efforts to save the wild areas of the park for future generations.