2019 a Year to Remember

by | Dec 12, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

“2019” a Year to Remember

This newsletter is a recap of the incredible outcome of our work resulting from the support from our membership, donors and grantors.

For the past three years we steadfastly held a vision of the Mary Lake property as a protected conservation area. A place to inspire lovers of nature.


   Starting the Year with Feet on the Ground

The pressure was on at the beginning of 2019 with only 5 months left to raise the remaining amount on the mortgage before the mortgage reserve ran out. Our allies stepped up and gave us a helping hand.

Working with Allies

We were very grateful when Joni Olsen, a long-time councillor with the Tsartlip Nation and Karen Harry, Tsartlip Band Administrator, brought powerful words of support, historical awareness and an appeal for the protection of the land to our meeting with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

We also appreciated the encouragement of Cathy Armstrong of TLC who became an ally  for the conservation of the property in the later part of 2018. She joined us at the table in our talks with the Ministry and offered wise insight and support throughout the process

When our talks with the Province of BC seemed to be going nowhere, we began following up on the Federal Pathway to Canada Target 1 Challenge. We also met with the CRD First Nations Relations Division and Highlands Council to see if they might have the funds for matching required by the Target 1 Grant.

Our Board of Directors reached out personally to the local MLAs to raise their awareness of the Nature Sanctuary and the need for funding to keep it as a protected area.

 Favorable responses helped keep our spirits up and resulted in a call back from the Ministry of the Environment.


The Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society (GVGS) is pleased to acknowledge the timely support of $1,403,000 from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy of BC to retire the remaining mortgage and interest related debt thus ensuring conservation of the property in perpetuity.

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.

“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 of Victoria Mayor

Conditions of Funding

  • Conservation Covenant held by the Province ensures the land is held for preservation purposes.
  • GVGS continue to develop and foster its relationship with the Tsartlip First Nation, as well as the inclusion of an indigenous name in the Sanctuary, provide a sound foundation for advancing reconciliation efforts and forging a cooperative working relationship

Over the last 7 months Ben Van Drimmelen of our Board, who has many years experience with land trusts, has been working with BC Parks on the wording of the Conservation Covenant.


The student group of the B.Sc. Environmental Science Dept. visited the site every Tuesday throughout the months of Feb. to Aug. 2019. Over six months of sampling and analysis, monitoring of the water quality in Mary Lake and its ingoing and outgoing streams were conducted in order to obtain a baseline, and to assess the potential for use of Mary Lake as a habitat for species of ecological and cultural significance to the area.

“The project provided the students with an exceptional experience. The opportunity to integrate scientific research with indigenous knowledge, gained through the insights provided by Elder Tom Sampson from the Tsartlip Nation made a lasting impression upon the students, resulting in a thoughtfully researched baseline report.” – Eric Bonham GVGS Director

“GVGS is a member of the BC Lake Stewardship Society (BCLSS).The BCLSS mission is to act as a resource, communication and information network among scientists, environmental professionals, lakeshore residents, the general public, First Nations, and government agencies in order to preserve, protect, and restore lakes in British Columbia.” The information from this report will support the work they do.

Tim Boesenkool our resident caretaker has been doing an excellent job maintaining  trails and grounds, fixing broken bridges and keeping beaver debris out of the fishway. He does perimeter walks keeping a watchful eye out for trespassers on the property. He has also been very involved with the Bullfrog Management  program.

Thank You Tim for all that you do!

Species at Risk Updates

The Seaside Bone Lichen Hypogymnia heterophylla is an addition.  

It is red-listed by the CDC and threatened under Species at Risk Act (SARA)

Bullfrog Management Program

We continued bi-weekly nighttime Bullfrog Management excursions throughout  the summer months.

In the summer of 2018, 30 sweeps removed approximately 60 bullfrogs from the lake. This summer, 12 sweeps removed another 26 bullfrogs. No large frogs were detected on some evenings. Bullfrog numbers appear to be down from 2018.

First Nations Partnership

Tom Sampson  is a respected elder of the Tsartlip Nation and a vocal environmental advocate who served as Chief of Tsartlip for 24 years, and chairman of the South Island Tribal Council for 22 years.

Tom has been a real ally for the preservation of the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary over many years. His suggestion of a GVGS partnership with Tsartlip has greatly contributed to the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary’s protection.

He has recently  joined our Board of Directors as an advisor.

We hosted a  gathering for Elders so we could deepen our relationships with them as we listened and learned about their personal history and relationship to the land.  In attendance were also the GVGS board and advisors as well as the RRU student group and Ken Williams the Mayor of the Highlands.

Stories were shared by Tom Sampson, Christine Paul and Sandy Morris of Tsartlip as well as Earl Claxton Jr. of Tsawout and Davis Bill of Tseycum. These poignant stories provided a window into a  knowledge of the land and the more than human world that illustrated both the deep knowledge that “sits” in specific places and the respectful practices that were used in the forests of the Highlands before European settlers arrived. These wholistic practices illustrate ancient yet living ways of maintaining health and rites of passage that integrate the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being and a respectful kinship with the land.  The recovery and use of the Sencoten language and use of Sencoten place names reminded us all of how the reclamation of language is also an important part of the reclamation of sacred sites like the lands and waters of the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary.

As noted by the RRU students attending the Gathering:  “The key take-away from our meeting was the overall cultural significance of the Highlands to the First Nations people. There was a strong spiritual connection to the land and species at Mary Lake that was evident in the stories told by the Elders. In order to properly care for the land at the Lake, it will be important to keep in mind the sacredness of having a deep and honouring relationship with nature and the ways in which it can support both the spiritual and physical aspects of a healthy life.”

Delicious baked salmon and bannock with a salad prepared by chef  Rose Jimmy  of Tsawout Nation was enjoyed by all.


Property Upgrades

Installing the Dry Hydrant

This summer saw us completing the last requirement for the subdivision  which allowed us to sell the lot to the CRD for the regional trail in 2018. This entailed the $20,000 installation of the dry hydrant near the Nature House to meet fire safety codes. It was installed by Victoria Contracting under the watchful eye of Bob McMinn.

Outdoor Dining

Lucky finds on Used Victoria enabled us to increase the tables and seating capacity to 32 on the lakeside patio.

Connecting to the Land

1st Regional Forest Therapy Training

We hosted the first regional Forest Therapy Guide training for people from all over the world including South America, Spain, Costa Rica, etc. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides is the most experienced global leader promoting the development and practice of Forest Therapy.

The Association was founded by M. Amos Clifford in 2012. Amos combined elements of Shinrin-Yoku practice in Japan with his four decades of experience in wilderness guiding, Zen meditation, psychotherapy, educational consulting, and nature connection to create a framework for Forest Therapy.

Rooted in “The Work That Reconnects”, a pioneering form of group work developed by eco-philosopher Joanna Macy.


Jackie Larkin and Maggie Ziegler have co-facilitated “The Work That Reconnects” retreats for seventeen years, bringing into the work a wide range of experiences as educators, facilitators and activists in social justice and environmental movements. They are walking a path of grounding this work in practices of decolonization.

Maxine Hayman Matilpi, a citizen of the Kwakiutl and Ma’amtigila Nations, is the project lead for RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water) at West Coast Environmental Law.

Inspiring the Arts

The Victoria Sketch Club came for their yearly visit on a beautiful late spring day.

Victoria Festival of Authors

VFA: Words in the Woods

An all new slate of writers, including Marilyn Bowering, Sonnet L’Abbé, Ariel Gordon, and Michael Kenyon shared words inspired by the landscape.

Gardens of Victoria Photographers visit

Distracted by Beauty: Wander like an Artist

Joanne Thomson, a full-time artist, is very good at taking annoying slow walks in wooded areas. She uses these walks to gather sketches for her paintings and drawings.

On special Sundays at  Mary Lake she welcomed others to join her.   They wandered the woods with viewfinders and talked about what discoveries they saw. Joanne talked about how to select images that can easily work for 2D paintings.

We thank her for donating her time and introducing others to Mary Lake.

Outreach and Promotion

Monthly and Private Group Walks

  • Over the past year approximately 550 people have attended our monthly “Spirit of Nature Walks”. Nine private groups requested guided walks as well.

Social Media

  • We now have 1800 people receiving our newsletters and more than 1900  people connected  to our Facebook page.

Preparing for the Future

With the mortgage paid off in April we began gathering information and engaging expert consultants for the next step – Rezoning from Private Residential to Conserved Area with monitored public access. Below are some of the things we needed to investigate.

Consultants for Rezoning

We met with numerous local experts (some had previously been involved in 2018) to plan budgets and time frames for the various aspects of the rezoning process.


Once we have gathered the pertinent information and submitted the application for rezoning, approval can take 8 to 12 months. To date our research indicates we will need to raise approximately  $50,000 to pay for the expenses related to this rezoning process which will allow public access. CLICK TO VIEW THE BREAKDOWN OF REZONING EXPENSES

                                        Please consider a $10 – $30 monthly donation to help us cover                                           the costs of rezoning and become recognized as a Guardian of Mary Lake.

When approval process is complete,  renovations and upgrades will need to be done to meet the conditions of the approval. We are also beginning to assess the cost of the upgrades required to meet the building codes for a public space. After we have all the numbers, we will share them with you.

There will be opportunities in the new year for you to sit in on community input sessions as we move forward, so we can benefit from the creative  wisdom of the group mind.

This has been a critical but awesome year for the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society as we leave behind the burden of the mortgage on the Nature Sanctuary property. Our ability to do all the work over the past 3 years to get us here, has been only possible through the generous donations of our supporters. We want to make sure you understand what a significant part you play in this wonderful project.

Sincerely the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society Board


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates about events.

You have Successfully Subscribed!