Students and Scientists Work Together on the Helliwell Park Restoration Project

Nineteen students from Hornby Island’s Community School participated for the sixth consecutive year in the Garry Oak Ecosystem Restoration Project in Helliwell Provincial Park. On October 13th these volunteers were joined by school staff and parents, Hornby Island Natural History Centre stewards, and a team of biologists from BC Parks and the BC Conservancy Foundation.

This laser-focused group dug out invasive Hairy Cat’s Ear weeds and filled the holes with one of several species of native plants 900 times! These plants once proliferated on the park’s bluffs and provided food and habitat for wildlife. Decades of farming and trampling however have reduced biodiversity within the park to the point that many species of plants and insects have been severely reduced in number or even extirpated. Invasive weeds still dominate, and the mainly Douglas Fir forest slowly and relentlessly continues to encroach on the open grassy meadows. BC Parks has been limbing some trees and removing some of the younger ones since 2015 to preserve and restore space for the meadows to survive. Observant park users may be noticing increased numbers of wildflowers and pollinators because of these efforts by so many concerned amateur and professional naturalists.

Our community as a whole has contributed to the restoration by walking only on delineated pathways, keeping dogs leashed, and providing essential support services. We hope that visitors will still enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Helliwell without loving it to death.

Over the first six years involved in the project, hundreds of Hornby’s students have removed thousands of weeds and planted thousands of native plants propagated and grown by the Natural History Centre’s stewards.

Watch in May and you may see beautiful and extremely rare Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies flitting about in the grasses. Each year in March the project releases Checkerspot larvae into the park and each year the number of sightings rise. The success that this data demonstrates speaks to the ongoing efforts of so many.

Thank you Hornby School and staff and all concerned!

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