Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

Development of a region-wide parks biodiversity plan has been endorsed by the Regional District of Nanaimo board.

The plan would expand on the proposed scope of an invasive species management plan described in the 2022 parks and trails strategy for community and regional parks. The plan would look at removing invasive species coupled with restoration work such as in riparian areas.

“The integrity and biodiversity of vegetation influences the landscape’s ability to retain and filter water, supporting important hydrological functions and ecological services such as flood mitigation, groundwater recharge and water quality protection,” the staff report on the proposed plan says. Developing it “will be critical to help mitigate the effects of climate change and related pressures associated with park visitation increases.”

The plan would focus on protecting and enhancing natural parkland to maintain and improve biodiversity in parks as well as strengthening public interest, awareness and participation in enhancing the biodiversity of natural areas. Actions to be considered would include helping protect natural areas from fragmentation through installation of barriers or native plantings to decommission unauthorized trails. An inventory of invasive plants would be completed, classifying them into management strategy categories, from “individualized” for parks with complex issues to “monitor and track” like large historic infestations that are unlikely to be contained or difficult to access.

“We didn’t want to limit just to the invasive species management plan because we realized there is so much more we can do,” manager of parks, Rick Daykin, explained to the board, adding the regional district is engaging with funding organizations including TD Bank and BC Hydro for mini grants.

The RDN’s 2023 operating budget includes $50,000 for the development of an invasive species management plan, which will be revised to develop an all-encompassing parks biodiversity plan. A request for proposals to develop the plan will be issued in August.

This year’s budget also converted a temporary full time natural areas operations coordinator position to permanent full time. The proposed 2024 parks operating budget includes hiring a parks stewardship coordinator, which, along with supporting actions to be identified in the biodiversity plan, staff say will enable the expansion of the invasive species volunteer program, establishment of an adopt-a-park program, as well as diversifying opportunities for education and outreach. The 2024 budget proposal for full implementation of the plan, including the parks stewardship coordinator salary is $250,189.

Of that, 30 per cent would be budgeted through regional parks with each electoral area’s community parks budget taking on 10 per cent of the cost as well.

Local News