Sooke landowner Ken Van put an irreversible preservation covenant on 10 of the 15.5 hectares of his property

Sooke landowner Ken Van put an irreversible preservation covenant on 10 of the 15.5 hectares of his property

Covenants save green space forever

Land trusts help protect and preserve special places

Ken Van and Patti Homer first hiked the lower peak of Sooke’s Christopher Goodman Mountain in 1985.

The trail is on a private parcel of land that runs north along the east side of the Sooke River, not far from the potholes. In 1994, Van and Homer bought the 15.5-hectare parcel, which includes the smaller peak of Goodman Mountain.

They’ve since transcended from environmentally sensitive property owners to its guardian angels, by placing a conservation covenant on the title.

“We considered making it a park but then it’s open to the public,” Homer said.

“There was a tacit understanding when we bought the land, which was owned by our friend, that we would protect it.”

Other than building their home near its entrance off Phillips Road, they’ve done nothing to harm the property. The covenant is co-managed with The Land Conservancy and Habitat Acquisition Trust. The federal government is also on the covenant.

It prevents them, and anyone else, from taking as much as a shovel to 10 of the 15.5 hectares.

“We wanted a multi-party covenant so it couldn’t be broken. It’s irreversible,” Van said.

Properties under covenant are monitored annually and are subject to fine, though HAT’s never issued one.

Obviously there’s more to the property than a good hike.

It’s a refuge for a variety of wildlife, including the red-listed sharp-tailed snakes. There’s plenty of deer, black bears, cougars (including a den full of bones), pine marten, and the recent encroachment of Roosevelt elk, Van said.

“Two of the ecosystems present are provincially red-listed, the Garry oak ecosystems and Coast Douglas fir forests, as well as two that are conservationally valued, the riparian corridors and ephemeral streams,” said Wendy Tyrell, HAT’s covenants and acquisitions coordinator.

In all, Habitat Acquisition Trust co-holds 28 covenants in the Capital region with numerous land trust partners, 16 of which are with TLC.

It’s no secret TLC’s economic status was not strong going into 2013. TLC owns and manages 300 protected properties worth $32 million across the province – including the Sooke Potholes almost adjacent to the Van and Homer property – and is currently undergoing massive restructuring after its bank accounts were temporarily frozen by the Canada Revenue Agency in 2012.

Andy McKinnon was chair of HAT’s board of directors in the 1990s and was on the ground floor when HAT began acquiring covenants for the purposes of preservation.

“We deliberately established these covenants as co-held with other land trusts, so we could work together and ease the workload on each trust,” said McKinnon, a research ecologist with the province.

“To have at least two covenanters guards against that situation.”

Regardless of what happens to TLC, HAT will be OK, said executive director Adam Taylor.

“In the short term, we anticipate this will mean more work for HAT as we are called on to do more to maintain these natural areas and the legal agreements that protect them,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read