Kathleen Burton, executive director of the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Saanich News file photo

Saanich to study funding help for nature sanctuary

Saanich will offer a helping hand in the replacement of a popular walkway in a local nature sanctuary.

Council unanimously passed a motion Tuesday that asks staff to “develop options for council’s consideration to provide funding toward the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary boardwalk replacement.”

The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary needs about $800,000 to replace the floating walkway that currently runs across the lake at a length of more than 300 metres. Made out of cedar boards, it opened in 1991 and ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in the region, as the sanctuary draws some 65,000 visitors annually and serves as an ecological educational centre for students across the Greater Victoria region.

The society has so far raised $350,000 through its ‘Give-a-Sheet’ campaign to replace the current cedar boards with fibreglass sheets said to be longer-lasting and eco-friendlier.

The issue arose after Coun. Fred Haynes and Coun. Dean Murdock brought it up last week. Haynes said Saanich has a number of tools including interest-free loans and community contributions from nearby development. Without Saanich’s help, the state of the walkway would continue to decline, potentially exposing Saanich to liability, said Haynes. He also expressed concerns that the need for constant upgrades would exhaust volunteers.

Council asked staff to investigate funding options after hearing from neighbourhood leaders and Kathleen Burton, executive director of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary Society among others.

Haji Charania, president of the North Quadra Community Association, urged council to help fund the walkway. Portions of the walkway have deteriorated to the point that they have become dangerous, he said. The walkway needs a new lease on life to make it safe and enrich the visitors’ experience. The sanctuary represents a “precious natural asset” for Saanich and the walkway is a “vital” part of it, he said.

Burton said the need to replace the floating walkway dates back several years. While initial estimates pegged the replacement cost at $400,000, that figure has now doubled. “And if we don’t do it soon, that number is going to grow,” she said. “We really, really, really need the help.”

Burton said in an earlier interview that the bridge will also help improve the experience of visiting the sanctuary.

“That is a way for us to tell our story more,” she said. “It is a way for people to get out in the middle of lake, where they wouldn’t normally be able to be and get a different view and often see a lot of different things that they wouldn’t be able to see. But it is also for educational programming.”

The new boardwalk will actually be above water, thereby serving as a wildlife corridor for muskrat, otter, waterfowl and other creatures. It will also feature so-called ‘teaching pods’ where visitors can learn more about Swan Lake and its unique ecosystem.

The origins of the sanctuary date back to 1975. More than a decade earlier, the District of Saanich had started to acquire land around Swan Lake and Christmas Hill with the aim of “retaining the area in its natural state, for the use and enjoyment of the public.”

Council’s direction to staff passed unanimously. “I’m a big fan of options,” said Coun. Susan Brice. “This will be an important piece of information to come forward.”

Just Posted

B.C. Guide dogs is looking for volunteer puppy raisers

Labrador retrievers need to learn obedience and socialization before heading to work

Colwood Elementary gets new inclusive and accessible playground equipment

Parks and playgrounds on the West Shore have equipment for everyone

Tent city campers prepare to leave Uplands Park

Vehicle access remains restricted at Cattle Point

A year in tent city: Timeline of Camp Namegans

Since September 2017, Victoria’s homeless camp has set up in more than 20 locations

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for Oct. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

UVic looks to socialize seniors in the digital age

Computer science department to host series of workshops for those 60 and over

Most Read