Invasive plants are well-adapted for colonizing bare ground and disturbed soil. It’s one of the things they do extremely well. Clear a patch of vegetation and the aggressive invaders rapidly move in and take over – if you let them. So Ministry of Environment biologists and hired restoration experts Kristen and James Miskelly weren’t surprised this fall to see thistles and other invasive plants in the rare coastal bluff and Garry Oak meadow area of Helliwell Provincial Park where shrubs and small trees were removed in March 2015. The clearing was used to emulate fire disturbance which once maintained the area as open grassland meadows. These biologists are pleased and relieved to discover that some of the native meadow species that were planted in the spring, such as Roemer’s Fescue and Junegrass, are doing particularly well. Another hopeful sign of restoration progress is that many of the Blue-eyed Mary seeds that were scattered in the spring have germinated and their tiny blue and white flowers will bloom in 2016.
Using Habitat Stewardship Program funds, Ministry of Environment contracted James and Kristen to return to the restoration site over the Thanksgiving weekend to supplement the ongoing restoration work by Deborah Bishop from Denman Island, and BC Parks staff. The Miskellys carefully weeded around any native plants they found and then put hundreds of seeds and nearly a hundred seedlings of open meadow plants such as Woolly Sunflower, Spring Gold, Common Camas, Sea Blush, and California Oatgrass into the bare soil.In early spring, more weeding, seeding and planting at this site will continue. Our experience with other restoration projects has proven that this approach of multiple plantings, persistent weeding, and patience can eventually tip the balance in favour of the native species. However, much work remains and local volunteers are needed to help monitor and maintain the restoration area. If you wish to assist, please fill out a volunteer form on the BC Parks website.
BC Parks conducted a public survey from August 22 – Sep 30 to elicit feedback on the restoration project in Helliwell Park. Of the 65 respondents, 97% supported the ecological restoration work that has occurred so far and a broad range of potential future restoration activities. Several of the people surveyed expressed a desire to protect Arbutus and Garry Oak trees, rare plants, rare ecosystems, and First Nations values associated with the area.
This project is supported by the BC Ministry of Environment, BC Parks, and Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program. The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team is providing technical advice. Several unique and rare species are associated with the open ecological communities in the park. We are hopeful this project will help maintain these species as well as restore habitat that once existed for species we have lost from Helliwell such as Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies.