Volunteers battle to reclaim Portage Park

Portage Park, the largest natural park in View Royal, is under attack and the city is rallying the troops to defend it.

UVic student Amanda Evans is helping the Town of View Royal to fight invasive species in Portage Park.

Portage Park, the largest natural park in View Royal, is under attack and the city is rallying the troops to defend it.

The enemy is invasive species of plants, particularly English ivy and daphne, and the best strategy to stop them is work, diligence and a lot of elbow grease. With this in mind the city is asking anyone interested to come out as volunteers and help.

Invasive plants, especially ivy, take over ground space and can choke native plants out of their home turf. These plants have no natural predators in these ecosystems and proliferate.

Working with View Royal town staff, Amanda Evans, a student with the University of Victoria’s Restoration of Natural Systems program, wrote a report over the summer on the park and has come up with a plan to stop the spread.

“(We’re) hoping to improve the ecological integrity,” Evans said. “Not to completely restore it but to improve the ecosystem health.”

“It’s in desperate need of some restoration work,” said View Royal Coun. Heidi Rast. “We’ve never really done this type of project before, so it’s well situated to be a pilot project to see if what we do with this can be expanded to other native parks.”

In December volunteers helped to clear one small area of ivy. Evans said they made a good dent, but it’s only a small portion of what needs to be done.

For years an unofficial group of volunteers from the neighbourhoods surrounding the park have worked to clear away some invasive species of plants. Evans said this effort is helpful, but their work will be even more effective when under the guidance of experts.

“They are passionate about actually helping restore the park,” Evans said. “But without any structure, without any guidelines … their hard work might not show a successful end result.”

Rast has volunteered her time to work in the park before, and said it’s rewarding and at the same time fun.

“It’s excellent. (Evans) has it really well organized, so she knows exactly what areas to target,” Rast said. “They’re a fun group.”

The most sensitive areas of the park, and the ones that will be focused on, are five rock outcrops, home to such native species as Garry oaks and licorice ferns. Evans said it will likely take more than three years to tackle these areas.

Upcoming work parties are scheduled for Feb. 9 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shifts will start with a training session. Evans said volunteers do not have to stay for the full three hours, but that it’s important to be there at the start, for the training.

Evans does ask volunteers to leave their dogs and children at home.

 

Anyone interested should email volunteer@viewroyal.ca to RSVP for a work party or for more information. Work parties will be limited to 15 to 20 people.