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Colwood’s proposed changes for Esquimalt Lagoon area under scrutiny

Area resident worries about impacts on birds and other wildlife that frequent nature sanctuary
Colwood resident Gary Woodburn has concerns about how proposed changes for the areas around Esquimalt Lagoon may impact the bird sanctuary. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

A Colwood resident has concerns about how proposed changes to the Esquimalt Lagoon area in the City of Colwood’s Waterfront Stewardship Plan will affect his multitude of feathered friends. Gary Woodburn has lived next to the lagoon since 1972 and spends a lot of time there photographing wildlife and studying their habits.

“I have concerns about adding a washroom, because it’s near an active area of the bird sanctuary,” said the retired Dunsmuir Middle School teacher of 35 years. “Birds congregate there all year long, especially during migratory season … Personally, I think it’s an eyesore as well.”

Any addition of a bridge, viewing platform or walkway must take into consideration the flight paths and space needed for some of the birds to land and take off, he said, notably kingfishers, hawks, eagles and turkey vultures that are in there all year.

ALSO READ: Ambitious plans for Colwood waterfront improvements underway

“Osprey fish in that area and I’m concerned it will drive them away,” noted Woodburn, a longtime contributor of wildlife and sports photos to Black Press and other media sources. “I’m not against changes, but they need to be studied thoroughly to ensure they don’t interfere with the birds that make the lagoon their home.”

He also said adding an area to launch kayaks or boats makes no sense, and cautioned about the importance of ensuring dogs in the area are leashed at all times.

A statement from the City of Colwood said although some early concepts for the stewardship plan have been presented to the public for input, a draft plan is not expected to be presented to council until late 2021.

“The impetus for the project is the need to protect the sensitive ecological and archaeological sites, as well as the safety of all users by guiding people thoughtfully through the space on a designated multi-use pathway from the lagoon bridge to Royal Beach,” the statement said.

Public engagement opportunities so far have included presentations to local First Nations, summer pop-up engagement booths at the waterfront and local parks, and updates at public meetings of the Colwood waterfront coastal process committee.

Online and in-person engagement with the project team and Colwood staff has also taken place, along with meetings with Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations, Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, Royal Roads University and local harbour societies.

ALSO READ: Colwood extends deadline for input on changes at Esquimalt Lagoon

Sounding boards at local shops have been utilized to raise awareness and allow for on-the-spot feedback, including at Red Barn Market, Royal Bay Bakery, Juan de Fuca Library, West Shore Parks and Recreation and city hall.

According to regulations, dogs must be leashed in and around Esquimalt Lagoon Migratory Bird Sanctuary and must be kept under effective control in other areas of the beach. There is an off-leash area between the lagoon washrooms on Ocean Boulevard and Royal Beach.

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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