It was a mixed greeting at Cattle Point on Monday morning for a rare visit by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.
Oak Bay mayor and council were on hand with dozens of supporters for an announcement that Uplands neighbourhood is now designated as a national historic site. A group of protesters were also there and while they certainly disrupted the event, with one protester arrested, the announcement was made to the delight of Oak Bay residents and dignitaries on hand.
|Longtime Uplands Park volunteer steward Margaret Lidkea meets the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, during an announcement at Cattle Point on Monday morning. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)|
“This is to recognize the incredibly history here, the original landscape, and of course the First Nations history, telling the story of the Songhees First Nations,” McKenna said.
Former federal environment minister David Anderson, an Uplands resident, was there to cheer on the announcement. Anderson noted that professor Larry McCann’s book helped bring a spotlight on what a famous piece of pioneer urban design Uplands subdivision is.
“Before McCann’s book a lot of people didn’t realize what a famous piece of pioneer urban design Uplands is,” Anderson said.
“When we crafted the application to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, we included the park, laid out in 1946, but the overwhelming emphasis was on the design of the residential landscape and the subdivision’s architecture,” McCann said.
McKenna also announced a $4.3 million investment in local projects to protect at-risk species and their habitats and will include money for Oak Bay. The money is divided among 49 conservation projects across Canada over the next three years, led by local experts such as Wylie Thomas of Oak Bay Parks department.
It includes a $108,000 investment to support Oak Bay’s conservation and recovery of 14 at-risk plant species found in Uplands Park, some of which are endemic to the area. Those include the Bearded Owl-clover, Kellogg’s Rush, Muhlenberg’s Centaury, Water-plantain Buttercup, and Tall Woolly-heads, McKenna said. Federal funding will help Oak Bay continue to remove invasive plant species, install split-rail fencing around sensitive areas and reduce the impact of recreational use in the park.
“What fantastic news,” said Chris Hyde-Lay. “This maritime meadow right here is home to 10 rare and endangered plant species, and unlusually large number for such a small area.”
In addition to the 10 plants another 14 plant species in Uplands and the surrounding meadows are listed with the federal species at-risk act.
“It’s one of the highest concentrations of plants to such a small area,” Hyde-Lay said.
Prime examples are the Kellogg’s Rush, which is 100 per cent endemic to Uplands Park, and Muhlenberg’s Centaury, which is 98 per cent endemic to Uplands with another two per cent of its stock on the small islands offshore.
“Maritime meadows are also rare with about 200 hectares left in Canada,” Hyde-Lay said.
McKenna recognized Uplands Park steward Margaret Lidkea for her work in reestablishing the native species of Uplands Park.
Anderson also noted that he agrees with the morning protesters that urgency is needed to fight climate change, adding Canada needs all provinces on board to reach a consensus in fighting the climate crisis.
“I’m just thrilled for the funding to support and continue the type of work Wylie and Margaret have done,” Anderson said.
The investment is also committed to help the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work in the recovery of endangered plants including Howell’s Triteleia and Yellow Montane Violet, within the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, and to restored the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly, an at-risk butterfly species found on Denman and Hornby Islands.
Some projects are designed with Indigenous groups to incorporate Indigenous traditional knowledge.