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

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

Saanich council to debate funding help for nature sanctuary

Council Tuesday will debate whether Saanich will help pay for the replacement of a popular nature walk.

Coun. Fred Haynes and Coun. Dean Murdock last week tabled a notice of motion that asks staff to “develop options for Council’s consideration to provide funding toward the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary boardwalk replacement.”

Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary needs about $800,000 to help 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 towards through its ‘Give-a-Sheet’ campaign to replace the current cedar boards with fibreglass sheets said to be longer-lasting and eco-friendlier.

Kathleen Burton, executive director of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary Society, said in an earlier interview that the bridge will 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.”