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Capital Region parks damaged by heavy rains; repair costs, extent of impact expected to grow

The mid-November record rain event caused uprooted trees, trail erosion, washed-out bridges
Parks in the Capital Region District, including Thetis Lake (in photo), sustained serious environmental damage from the intense mid-November rainfall that hit the area. (Photo courtesy CRD)

Uprooted large trees, eroded trails and washed-out structures are just some of the impacts parks in the Capital Region District sustained during the atmospheric river’s intense rainfall that hit B.C. in mid-November.

The CRD’s Regional Parks committee on Nov. 24 heard a long list of damaged park areas. That list and repair costs will continue to grow as CRD staff still have yet to assess all park areas and the full extent of the record rainfall’s impacts.

“It may be some time before the whole picture is understood,” Jeff Leahy, senior manager of regional parks said at the meeting. “Staff are also preparing for heavy rain events that are forecasted for the next week.”

This month’s pummeling precipitation washed-out bridges, or parts of them, in Thetis Lake (on Seaborn Trail), Mount Work (near Munn Road) and Mill Hill regional parks. The damage to the Thetis Lake and Mount Work bridges has been estimated at $2,500 each. Both parks also had their trails face minor erosion, but that damage hasn’t been costed yet.

A washed-out and now un-drivable BC Hydro service road in Matthews Point Regional Park will need $3,500 in repairs, while another service road in Mouat Park will cost $1,000 to fix.

READ: Atmospheric river behind record rain and flooding in Greater Victoria

The rain overwhelmed culverts across the region, causing damage in many parks and trails. The Sooke Mountain Trail was “extremely damaged” in Sea to Sea Regional Park due to the overwhelmed culverts, Leahy said. The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) in Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park was also hit badly by the culverts failing to keep up with the rain.

“There could be significant capital of investment (needed) to rehabilitate that trail,” Leahy said.

Many trails were eroded by the rain. A section of the 10-kilometre trail in Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park cracked and started to slump towards the lake, CRD staff said. That fix will also cost $3,500 and erosion on the park’s Pipeline Trail will be another $1,000.

In many spots, large trees toppled onto trails as a result of the Nov. 15 downpour.

“Numerous trees are down across the trails and roads throughout the (parks) system with new instances being discovered daily,” Leahy said. “We are anticipating more tree failures as saturated soils combined with winds and potential freezing temperatures going into the winter months create the perfect conditions for uprooting.”

The rain event’s impact could lead to lasting changes – like larger culverts being needed, staff noted – in regional parks.

“Putting it back to the way it was in many situations just isn’t going to make any sense,” staff said.

Engineers are still assessing regional dams in the parks as well.

“We do know that the water was quite high for some of those dams,” Leahy said.

READ: Wastewater overflows taint waters from Oak Bay to Saanich

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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