VICTORIA – Exploring nature and protecting sensitive ecosystems found at the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary on Southern Vancouver Island for future generations has been facilitated through a $1.4 million contribution from the British Columbia government.
Located in the District of Highlands, 25 kilometers from Victoria, the 17-hectare Mary Lake property is home to a diversity of plant and animal species, some of which are threatened. It also sits near the centre of the Millstream Watershed which has been flowing since the last ice age through four regional communities. The property is the site of the Highlands Nature House, which will be used for hosting retreats, workshops, art programs and classes focused on nature and ecology.
The Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society (GVGS) is pleased to acknowledge the timely support of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy of BC to retire the remaining mortgage thus ensuring conservation of the property in perpetuity. The continued protection of this property maintains natural corridors and the ecosystem health of nearby park areas.
In 2016, the GVGS purchased the Mary Lake property (27 hectares in size) for approximately $2 million. A 10-hectare lot was divided off (completed in summer of 2018) for purchase by the Capital Regional District to close the gap in the regional trail connection between Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and Thetis Lake Regional Park. In November of 2018 Tsartlip First Nation became partners for the protection of the lake property which sits within the traditional territory of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.
The unique partnership between the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society a local non-profit, the Tsartlip First Nation, and the Government of BC with the support of numerous local organizations and individuals has made this success possible
The GVGS is looking forward to continuing our collaborations with the Tsartlip First Nation to determine how the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary and Highlands Nature House can be managed to promote conservation, respect for nature and cultural values.
Next steps involve placing covenants that will protect the property in the future as a conservation area and rezoning from a residential property to a nature sanctuary with a nature house for public use.
“This grant enables the Society to conserve the Mary Lake property, fulfilling a vision that started over a decade ago. With pressures from development threatening regional green spaces the timing has been crucial.” Bob McMinn, Chair, Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society.
“The Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary provides our community a chance to connect to nature and deepen our understanding of B.C.’s unique ecology,” said Premier John Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. “It is also an opportunity to strengthen our understanding of Indigenous knowledge and culture through a partnership with the Tsartlip First Nation.”
“British Columbians take great pride in our province’s natural beauty and we can all play a part in protecting the land we call home,” said George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Our government recognizes the importance of conserving and protecting B.C.’s wide variety of plants, animals and ecosystems.”
“On behalf of the District of Highlands, I would like to thank the Province of B.C. for their generosity in helping the successful partnership of Tsartlip First Nation and Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society preserve the spectacular natural asset known as the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary.” Highlands Mayor Ken Williams
“This announcement is great news for the entire region. When non-profit, government, and First Nations’ representatives work together to protect our natural environment, we show that as a community we are serious about relationship building and reconciliation. There is a lot to learn from our Indigenous communities about how-to live-in harmony with nature; and building more green spaces to explore allows residents an opportunity to appreciate why the time is now to protect these precious spaces.” Sooke Mayor Maja Tait
“The Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary is a sacred place, rich with biodiversity and it’s also a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The property was purchased in partnership and I’m deeply grateful to the Provincial government for their contribution which secures this natural jewel in perpetuity.” Lisa Helps, City
“The Great Victoria Greenbelt Society considers the natural world to be a precious and necessary partner to the healthy existence of all beings including humans. We believe that all aspects of nature deserve to be respected and protected now and for future generations.”
For more information and to donate, visit https://www.marylakeconnections.ca/
GVGS Contact: [email protected]