The Land Conservancy is currently working on its first urban waterway restoration project. The project site is located adjacent to the Gorge waterway which is one of Victoria’s most invaluable natural resources. The Gorge flows from Victoria’s Inner Harbour, under the Selkirk Trestle, Tillicum bridge and into Portage Inlet providing habitat for marine and terrestrial species, an aesthetic backdrop for local communities and a means of transport for recreationists, waterfowl and boats alike. TLC has a long-term vision and commitment to the cultural and ecological restoration and protection of the Gorge Waterway. As opportunities arise and resources become available, TLC will look at options to purchase and/or place conservation covenants on lands adjacent to the Gorge Waterway for the purpose of restoration and conservation. TLC has partnered with the City of Victoria in this vision of a progressively naturalized Gorge waterway.
In the Fall of 2002 this vision started to become a reality with TLC’s first partnership project with the City of Victoria. TLC purchased 508 Selkirk Road which is a waterfront lot situated adjacent to the Gorge, just north of the Selkirk Trestle. TLC then subdivided the lot, resold the piece adjacent to Selkirk Road to purchasers who are supportive of this project, and donated the Gorge waterfront portion to the City of Victoria for conservation purposes. The City will be managing the property and recognizes the long term public interest in the preservation, protection and restoration of the ecosystems and biodiversity of the Gorge Waterway and this property.
At the time of the donation to the City, TLC registered a conservation covenant on the waterfront lot. A Waterfront Restoration Agreement was also added to the covenant whereby TLC committed to restore the waterfront to its original native ecosystem by December 2004.
To help accomplish TLC’s goals and commitment to the Waterfront Restoration Agreement, we are working in conjunction with the School of Environmental Studies and the Restoration of Natural Systems (RNS) Program at the University of Victoria. The increasing and multi-disciplined interest in restoring the Gorge Waterway creates an excellent educational opportunity for students to do an on-site restoration project. The course will draw upon the expertise and resources from the community, private sector, government and the university. TLC and the University will be engaging local community groups, government specialists and consultants in the freshwater, marine and restoration fields to share their experience and knowledge in classroom seminars.
The Gorge Waterway Action Society was founded 14 years ago and consequently its members and directors provide the perfect example of local knowledge. There we will find an inestimable amount of historical data, information and dedication to the Gorge. GWAS support of this project is indispensable.
More local input for this project will come from VEHEAP (Victoria and Esquimalt Harbour Environmental Action Program). Collaboration with this program will bring this restoration project into the greater context of the management and protection of Victoria’s Harbours and waterways.
The course will include a conceptual plan for restoration, followed by actual on-site work focused on a specific aspect of the restoration project. Aspects to be researched and conducted are the following: historical analysis examining aerial photographs and archival information, site inventory, restoration prescription, removal of existing cement sea wall, sampling of site for contaminants, removal of fill, site re-grading, deposition of topsoil and replanting of native vegetation. A monitoring procedure must also be put in place to determine the project’s progress. TLC will obtain all necessary permits, inspections and approvals required for the Waterfront Restoration Agreement. This site may then be used as a model for other properties along the Gorge waterway to undergo similar restoration initiatives.
This course has been made possible by funding donated from GWAS, the City of Victoria, the University of Victoria and TLC. If there is a strong enough demand, the course could be offered on an annual basis as opportunities, projects and properties become available. Course registration is open to students in the RNS program, ES students and members of the public who can register through the University Division of Continuing Studies.