Celebrating EcoBLITZ!

If you were driving down Chancellor Boulevard early Saturday morning on October 14, you may have been lucky enough to see the sight of a young woman in a high vis vest, jumping ecstatically up and down to an audience who cheered her on, shouting: “IT’S THE ALIEN INVADERS!”

This fabulous sight was the Program Coordinator, Krista Voth, who was about to lead a group of volunteers into Pacific Spirit Park to get their hands dirty. The day was dedicated to the Eco Blitz Urban Tree Planting, a project kindly funded by the Pacific Parklands Foundation George Ross Legacy Fund and the Vancouver Park Board. The aim: plant over 2,000 native trees and shrubs.

Western Red Cedar, Vine Maple, Western Hemlock and Pacific Crab Apple… the potted plants clustered at the opening of the Park trail, just like we did, bracing against the harsh cold of the autumn morning. Krista and her team welcomed new and regular volunteers: signing up, gloving up, jostling and joking, gossiping and laughing. They listened intently as Krista finished her live Twitter feeds and lively performance, and got serious to give a thorough run down on the day: planting distance, techniques, be careful not to trip, please don’t poke your eye out. Then we all got our wheelbarrows and spread out, following the assigned flags like coloured breadcrumbs to the belly of the forest.

There was a lovely gentle feeling of community as everyone quickly got to work. The soil was loose and dry underneath the thick soggy mulch, the plants slipping into their new homes easily. Conversation flowed through the trees as bodies began to warm from the labor. As a first-time volunteer for the Society I was grateful to be spending my weekend in this place. I always love being in the Park: the woodland makes me feel something there are no words for. I noticed every single person wore a smile. Any drizzle from the skies was caught in the canopy and we all hoped for a late heavy shower to settle in the new occupants.

So by now you’re probably thinking: will she ever get back to the aliens? What was that all about? Well, to put it simply: Krista had been reenacting a promotional video she had recently seen, which creatively tried to address invasive species by dressing up their staff in alien costumes and having them pop out of shrubs. The concept was great, but the message could easily be lost. I could see Krista’s message to us for the day, on behalf of the Society, was one that was perfectly executed, when she presented a club sized sponge cake, the words in thick glossy icing: thank you.

Some stats: Over three events like the one described above, 106 volunteers came out and planted a total of 1,837 plants! Amazingly, this converts to 563 volunteer hours gifted generously to the Park.

Written by Ruby Ewens

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PEOPLE OF PACIFIC SPIRIT PARK SOCIETY: David Bromley

David Bromley. We met on a cool, bright afternoon, full of late autumn sunshine. I was quick to identify the reasons people had spoken such fond words about him as he greeted me in a crowded coffee shop, his hand extended, a yellow mug balanced in the other, asking me my name. The confidence David exuded did not deter my shock. After a few formal introductory emails, and information that I had clearly misunderstood, I realized my critical mistake: David was not a volunteer of the Pacific Spirit Park Society (‘the Society’) for seventeen years, but a volunteer of seventeen years. The next half hour would prove the biggest nightmare for any interviewer, as I was forced to abandon my premeditated questions. However, something equally lovely happened: I found myself not needing that hackneyed script and became increasingly curious about this high school boy who gave up a lot of his free time to volunteer.

 

David juggles his role as Volunteer Leader at the Society, events for Sea Watch, seasonal work at an Equestrian Farm in Southlands and is also the head sound technician at his high school, working in the technical aspects of theatre production. He has also applied for a scholarship with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks for youth leadership – something the Society would love to see David flourish in. As part of the leadership team for PSPS, David guides groups of volunteers, ensures they are handling tools safely and correctly, and helps them complete the day’s assigned task. The thing I found myself really wanting to know was why. Why come out every week, away from family and friends, to tramp around in a large, musty park? David, humble and obliging, said he started volunteering for the Society simply because it was something to do. Weekends for David in his early high school days had plenty of room to fill, and he explained further: “it felt nice to be part of an organization on some mission. I liked the stuff we were doing. I enjoyed the restoration and it felt like we were helping the park and helping people use the park.”

As our conversation continued, I discovered he was both clever and pragmatic.

“The Society has made some good choices,” he informed me, such as “making the tasks more and more large mission orientated as opposed to individual changes every day. It’s good for a low level volunteer perspective to see it as mission orientated.”

He was sitting in front me: layers and layers of blue like a cloudless sky, the combinations endless. The crystal blue of his eyes disappeared under long lashes, head bent forward over a sky blue buttoned shirt, accompanied by a baby blue puff jacket. When I heard David talk I thought of what it feels like to volunteer myself, this mix of purpose and fulfillment, time spent doing things you love, not needing monetary exchange to give it value. The value already inherent in the act.

“I think the thing with volunteering is the feeling you are doing something terribly important,” he said, voicing my thoughts, then bringing it back to the Park: “especially with the mapping and the water monitoring, because to me that feels like data gathering and helping research. Ecological restoration in all forms is valuable…we are collecting data and it feels nice that the data you are collecting is going in at least some capacity to someone to use for research purposes.”

I commended him on his efforts, telling him he is valiant in this altruistic attitude. He encouraged people to join the Society and described they had a few regulars but generally there was a high turnover of volunteers, the majority being made up of UBC (university) and St George (high school) students. The time commitment is understandably difficult, especially after people graduate. David is in his last year at Prince of Wales High. I asked him what he wants to do when he graduates and cringed: I hated getting asked this and remember only too well the mundane pressure, the desperate inability to forecast a career, the vultures that circle when you become too introspective. But David is looking beyond the local paddocks. He has eyes for East Coast or American universities that don’t require you to elect a Major until the second year, thus offering him greater freedom for a little while longer.

“Right now I’m sticking with a Math based focus,” he told me. “But I like the more social aspects of sciences as well: how it connects to policy. That interests me. I say Mathematics because I’m interested in it but it’s hard for me to rectify that with also liking governmental policy and how that is influenced by scientific thinking and research…That is one of the things I look forward to in university: the ability to explore different avenues. More so then anything else that is the most valuable thing to me.”

This clear articulation inspired in me a desire to have had David’s certainty around something that in its very nature is uncertain: the future.

 

Towards the end of our chat, when we were winding down, David said he had an interesting and useful story for me. I chirped in anticipation. And so he told me how he found out about the Society in the first place, in 2014, through a school tutoring program, Brain Boost. “I joined along for the day … removing ‘invasives’ and it stuck with me, and then I remember a year later I thought: ‘how could I get involved in that?’ I guess the message for that is I think it is valuable for some sort of involvement – trying to get schools to get out – I don’t know how viable that is. But I didn’t know it existed beforehand.”

 

He also gave me a new perspective, something I had not really recognizing before. He talked about how the new developments going up were more and more a reflection of the Park, tall wood buildings scaling to Vancouver’s big skies when the clouds weren’t sitting there, bellies full of rain. All that wood: the raw and the planed, the creaking and the polished. I loved the thought of how they could mirror each other, one side crafted by nature, the other side crafted by man. Even drinking our coffees we were surrounded by wood: the spirit of the park never far from our consciousness.

“It’s important for the UBC community. It really makes the whole UBC architecture work. A lot of the new architecture is very environmentally focused … new uses of woods. To a greater extent just the general feel of the UBC area and the greater Endowment Lands; I think the park is very important to its style. That’s what I like. I think I appreciate the Park first for just being there, almost, as opposed to being a bunch of residential buildings.”

I loved the small answer David gave me when I asked what his favorite thing about the Park was; apart from liking that it was maintained. Sometimes things are best when they are put simply: “it’s beautiful.

Written by Ruby Ewens

Photo: Andre-Phillip Picard

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Summer Solstice

SUMMERTIME!

Summer solstice has past and summer is officially here!  Even though the days will start to get shorter, we are just beginning to enjoy the warmer weather.

We are looking forward to a busy summer in the park.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Partnering with a youth settlement group (South Vancouver Neighbourhood House) to introduce new immigrants and refugees to Canadian wildlife and ecosystems
  • Testing out activities and lessons from our new EcoKITS with Eagles in the Sky (Britannia Community Services)
  • Removing invasives Holly from the Acadia Forest Restoration site with the EcoTEAM
  • Counting aquatic invertebrates (insects) at Spanish Creek with StreamKeepers, Catch the Spirit youth and Nature Kids members
  • Piloting our new EcoWATCH monitoring programs out with volunteers

We hope that you have a chance to explore a new trail in the park or come out to one of our Saturday EcoTEAM events from 1:00-4:00.

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Acadia Forest Restoration Project

The PSPS EcoTEAM is launching a new restoration project!

HISTORY: The Acadia Forest has a long history of disruption.  In 1930 and then again in 1951, the Acadia Forest on either side of Chancellor Boulevard was cleared to make way for development.  Thanks to a very dedicated group of citizens, the construction project did not go through and in 1989, much of the UBC Endowment lands became a regional park.

PROBLEM #1: Deciduous trees, including Black Cottonwood, Red Alder and Big-leaf Maple quickly established in the cleared site following the clearing.  However, the conifer seed source was removed during clearing, creating an unnatural growth pattern in the area.  Deciduous trees usually start to die after 60-80 years, just as the conifer trees start to take over.  With only a hand full of conifers, the Acadia Forest is missing the next generation of trees!

PROBLEM #2: Disturbed sites often are perfect areas of invasive plants to spread quickly and the Acadia Forest is no exception.  The area is covered with invasive English Holly, as well as Himalayan Blackberry, English Ivy and English Laurel.

RESTORATION: Over the summer the PSPS EcoTEAM will be removing the invasive plants.  Then, to encourage the natural forest succession and to outcompete the invasive plants as they return, we will be planting conifer trees and shrubs in fall.

SUPPORT:  This project would not be possible without the support of:

  • Pacific Parklands Foundation
  • Metro Vancouver Regional Parks
  • Vancouver Park Board

GET INVOLVED: Sign up for an event today on MeetUp.

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April at a Glance

Spring is here!

Are you interested in getting outside or becoming involved with urban ecological restoration work?

Find out about what is happening in Pacific Spirit Regional Park this month!

You can visit our website calendar or MeetUp page for more information about the events in April.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

or be added to our weekly email list.

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Interview with PSPS Program Coordinator: Krista Voth

This week Chris Ma and Brady Sprague from Saint George’s Senior School interviewed Krista, the PSPS Program Coordinator. Here are parts of those interviews:

Chris: When you were an adolescent, what organization did you volunteer for? Did you do anything more than volunteering?

Krista: As an adolescent growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba I volunteered at a retirement home. I visited the residents and led bingo events. I really enjoyed getting to know many of the residents and hearing some great stories. Aside from my volunteer work, I did lots of babysitting in my neighbourhood.

Brady:  What animals do you notice in the park when you’re out walking?

Krista: Pacific Spirit Regional Park has a huge variety of birds because of the range of ecosystems represented. The wetlands, streams, forests, meadows and shorelines all provide important habitat for both year round resident birds and migrating birds. We also frequently see salamanders in the forests and salmon fry in the streams.

Brady: In your mind, what impacts do these animals have on the park?

Krista: The birds spread seeds throughout the park, which can have both positive and negative impacts on the park.   Birds help maintain native plant biodiversity and encourage forest growth when they spread native plant seeds.   However, birds also spread invasive plants seed throughout the park. That is one reason why it is so important for PSPS and local gardeners to remove invasive plants from the park and their yards.

Brady: What do you notice about the way people treat the park?

Krista: I notice that most people make efforts to care for the park by picking up after their dogs, reporting invasive plants or fallen logs, staying on the trail and not harvesting the vegetation. However, I see evidence that some people explore off trail, let their dogs off leash in environmentally sensitive areas or leave their dog waste along the trail. Even though only a small percent of park users don’t follow the park rules, it has a big environmental impact.

Brady: Why is it important to remove invasive plants from our parks?

Krista: Invasive plants have no natural competition in the areas where they are introduced. The pests, diseases and plant diversity in their origin country all help to keep nature in balance. When there are no diseases or pests to help keep the balance, these introduced plants spread very fast and take over large areas of the park. This reduces the amount of space, light and nutrients for other plants.

Chris: How can I contribute to PSPS if I do not have time to volunteer?

Krista: If you do not have time to volunteer, you can spread the word about the importance of park etiquette, such as staying on the trails, keeping dogs on leash in environmentally sensitive areas and cleaning up after your dog in the park.   Also donations are always welcome to help run our programs!

Brady: What keeps you motivated to continue helping the park?

Krista: Seeing the dedication and enthusiasm of the volunteers is the biggest motivation for me!

 

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Once a horse stable

This fall PSPS planted over 2000 trees in a large restoration site along South West Marine Drive, in a site that was once covered in Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberries.

Why was this area so impacted by the spread of invasive plants?

The other week a park visitor came by to chat and mentioned that years ago the site held the horse stables for the milk delivery carts.  After the horse stables were no longer used, the site did not have any protection against the spread of invasive plants. If you have time, here is little video showing milk delivery with a horse drawn wagon in Vancouver many years ago.  Do you recognize any of the streets? My, how things have changed!

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October Eco Blitz Restoration

The Eco Team will be working hard over the next few weeks to prepare the 2016 Pacific Spirit Regional Park Eco Blitz site for planting.  Once covered in invasive Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberry, this site will soon become a lovely native forest with lots of plant diversity with a little help from you.

Scotch broom may be pretty, but it quickly becomes the only plant in sight.  Plant diversity is very important in ecosystems because it provides a variety of wildlife with habitat and a source of food.

Plus, Scotch broom is invasive.  That means that it is not native to BC, spreads very fast and does not have natural ecological competitors, such as insects and other plants that can help stop this plant in it’s tracks.

That is why we need you to help us finish removing the scotch broom on October 8th and 15th.

Then, on October 22nd and 29th the Eco Team will be planting 1000’s of trees to help out-complete the scotch broom and provide a home and food to lots of birds and forest animals again.

Find out more or sign up on our Events Calendar or on Meet Up.

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