Conserving the environment hasn’t always been popular, but for Chris Hyde-Lay, it’s been a lifelong passion.
Hyde-Lay has been with the District of Oak Bay for nearly 30 years, making him one of the longest-serving staff members on the roster. He’s worked throughout the years as a horticulturalist, arborist and for the past 11 years as the Manager of Parks Services.
“I’ve always loved the beauty of growing things,” he said.
Hyde-Lay got an education in horticulture with a diploma from BCIT and a red seal in horticulture through the B Dinter Nursery in Duncan. He also has a diploma in supervision from Malaspina University.
He started working with the District of Oak Bay in 1988, and has only worked privately for seven since then.
“What brought me back was the sense of community, without a doubt,” he said. “Staff across the district are excellent, and the volunteers are astounding as well.”
Some of the volunteers, he noted, have been with the district even longer than he has.
Things have changed over the years, he said, with written communication being an obvious one as things went digital. Other uses of technology also expanded, including using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to map parks. There are even plans in place to create an online tree inventory.
The biggest change, however, is the public interest in the environment.
“Since the ’90s, people are much more interested in ecosystems, trees, and flowers. They’re much more plugged into the community, with a focus on the environment—especially now with climate change.”
A lot of the projects the district is working on are publicly led, with residents wanting to maintain the vibrancy and beauty of Oak Bay.
One project taken on in the past five years was a district-wide Urban Forest Strategy, which aims to have 40 per cent canopy coverage in the municipality by 2045. Presently, the district is at 33 per cent.
Another project is a partnership with the University of British Columbia to interact with a Community Coolkit, including a series of workshops and access to resources to learn about ways to make your home more environmentally friendly.
Through various projects, from creating a bird sanctuary, to maintaining seven kilometres of hedging, 29 parkettes and 27 km of boulevards, Hyde-Lay says his proudest moments are the successes they’ve had with environmental restoration.
“I’m most proud of Uplands Park because of how unique it is,” he said. “It’s precious to me because it’s a rare ecosystem with an unusually high number of rare plants… probably one of the highest of any park in Canada.”
In 2020, the Government of Canada recognized Uplands Park as a National Park of Conservation Significance.
At the end of the day, Hyde-Lay says the reason for his long career with Oak Bay is easy:
“It’s a great place to work.”
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