Jarrett Teague enjoys the view at John Dean Park. Teague has laboured for more than 25 years to keep the park free of invasive species of plants.

Dedicated people on invasive species patrol on the Saanich Peninsula

Jarrett Teague was only in Grade 9 when he joined a group of concerned citizens in their quest to rid John Dean Park of invasive species that had taken over the park.

That was in 1990, and the coordinated effort of about a half dozen dedicated people, including Teague, actually made a difference, removing the blackberry groups, holly, English Ivy, Daphne and Broom and leaving the park invasive plant free..

But, while the work was successful in ridding the park of those invaders, by 2003 the group disbanded.

“We didn’t have a stewardship agreement in place with the municipality and, frankly, we were running out of volunteers.” said Teague.

But by that time, Teague had developed a love of the park and an almost spiritual belief that people have a responsibility to maintain the landscape the way it was before the introduction of plants from Europe pushed the native flowers, shrubs and other plants from our forests. HE has continued the work on his own and, having divided the park into 9 sections, he makes regular walks through the park and pulls the “baby” seedlings of the invasive species, keeping the park invasive free.

“It doesn’t take long to do, a few hours a month, but it is absolutely necessary. The truth is that, even after you pull the invasives out of the park, there are roots or seed beds that will have them re-emerge. Leave them alone for a few years and you’d be back to where you started from,” he explained.

It’s been lonely work for Teague, but now a group of like-minded residents are forming a group to help in the invasive species quest.

Ashley Scanion, whose job as a maintenance worker for Central Saanich Parks takes her through the parks on a regular basis, found herself increasingly concerned about the preponderance of invasives that populate much of the parkland on the Peninsula.

“I ran into a lady named Sharon Hope, who works as a fire prevention worker and together we decided to form a group to rid the entire peninsula parks system of invasive species,” said Scanion.

“We started with a park called R.O. Bull Park and we’ve had seven work parties and spent over 123 hours removing the invasive plants. The good news is we’re just two work parties away from finishing.”

Scanion added that the volunteers are already noticing that the native species are already growing in the areas that they have cleared.

“The forest is just waiting for some help so that it can repair itself and return to its natural state.”

But Scanion and Hope are taking a lesson from Teague as they embark on their mission. They realize, said Scanion, that they must train people to carry on the effort to keep a park free of invasives after the original removal.

“We’re training people as we go along and getting a commitment at each park. At R.O. Bull Park we have the niece of the man who donated the land as a park and she’s thinking of taking that long term commitment on with a group of neighbours,” said Scanion.

“There are 24 parks in North Saanich and we’re going to do our best to get them invasive free, one park at a time.”

Teague is thrilled that Scanion’s group is tackling the project and is hopeful that they are successful.

“It’s a long process, but in the end, it really is worth it,” said Teague.

“I was just a kid when I started this and I’ve been at it for 27 years and I get to look back and take pride in what I’ve accomplished.

“There’s one place in John Dean Park called Pickle’s Bluff. When I first saw it it was seven feet deep in Scotch Broom.

“Now I go up thee and it’s the way it would have been 200 years ago.That’s a special thing. It’s good for the soul.”

The next work party planned by Scanion’s group will take place on Sept 11 at R.O. Bull park( 400-block Wain Road, North Saanich) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Interested parties can simply show up for the work party or contact Scanion at 400-block Wain Road, North Saanich.

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