Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society (GVGS): 1979 – to present
GVGS is a registered non profit society S-0014941 with an elected, volunteer Board of Directors. We are also a registered with the CRA Charities Division (BN11894 6953 RR0001). As a registered society GVGS has a constitution and a set of by-laws to which we adhere.
“To foster respect for nature and promote the protection of natural areas for the benefit of all future generations through environmental conservation, restoration, education, and cultural activities in alliance with local First Nations.”
“A world with protected natural areas that support the well being of the future generations of all species.”
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.
In spending time in nature, we undergo a process of deepening our insight and awareness, a process in which we strengthen our connection with the natural environment. This fundamental shift in our perspective allows us to realize our ties and responsibility to all life.
By mindfully cultivating our relationship with nature, we can re-awaken our understanding of the critical interdependence of all life, and naturally be inspired to protect it from destructive practices.
- Encourage a respectful and wholistic connection to nature.
- Protection and conservation of nature for its own sake and future generations.
- Restoration and maintenance of ecosystems that support endangered species, plant communities and the Millstream watershed.
- Invasive non-native species removal
- Planting or seeding of native species of plants.
- Established Conservation Covenant that protects the land in perpetuity and is inclusive of First Nations traditional concerns.
- Restoration and maintenance of ecosystems that support endangered species, plant communities and the Millstream watershed.
- Collaborative and supportive relationship with local First Nations – W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples.
- Creating opportunities for the return of traditional cultural use and land management
- Research that combines Scientific Naturalist Traditions (SNT) and First Nations Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) – Species Kinship Mapping Program
- Nurturing connections between regional community and local First Nations (W̱SÁNEĆ peoples) to foster respectful understanding.
- 4. Providing space for activities that foster balanced health and wellbeing through time in nature.
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Nature/Forest Therapy
- Support cultural expression through the arts.
GVGS committed to respectful relationships with First Nations Peoples
Aug. 2022: GVGS Board of Directors adopted the 5 following resolutions to move the GVGS towards an equitable partnership with W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations on whose territory the W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary (formerly Mary Lake) is situated.
- 1980-87 we developed detailed Trail Plans for the Saanich Peninsula and Western Communities and proposed Trail Construction Guidelines.The Capital Regional District used these “linear park” plans as the basis for the Regional Trail System.
- The Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society (GVGS) has a history in advocating and taking action towards preserving local properties. Before the Mary Lake project, some members were also directors of the Gowlland Foundation which spearheaded the conversion of 1,400 acres of the Gowlland Range to become a main feature of the Gowlland Tod Provincial Park in 1995.
- 2010 we began working with the Highlands Stewardship Foundation (HSF) to purchase, conserve and establish the original 114 acres of the Mary Lake property as a public area and this pursuit was subsequently taken over by the GVGS.
Current Project: W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary (formerly Mary Lake)
Conservation, Education, Culture and Reconciliation are the four pillars that will guide and support our work at the W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary.
GVGS would like to acknowledge the importance of initial donors who supported the Mary Lake initiative. Without their generous support we would have been unable to launch this campaign.
- The Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society began working with our supporters in the general public, local businesses, hiking and nature clubs, and environmental organizations to raise the additional funds needed to do research of species at risk, habitat restoration and development of the Nature House.
- In November of 2018 we signed a Declaration of Partnership with the Tsartlip First Nation who also had a desire to keep the property in it’s natural state for future generations.The GVGS is looking forward to continuing our collaborative partnership with the Tsartlip First Nation to determine how the W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary and Highlands Nature House can be managed to promote conservation, respect for nature and cultural values.
- On March 29th 2019 we received funding from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy of BC to retire the remaining mortgage thus ensuring conservation of the property in perpetuity.
- A covenant with the Provincial government acknowledges the property as conserved nature sanctuary with monitored public access to ensure the protection of species at risk and endangered plant communities found there.
- We are now doing research and preparing for the rezoning process to change the property from Greenbelt II Residential to a special conserved area with a nature house for public use for hosting retreats, workshops, art programs and classes focused on nature and ecology. New upgrades to the original residence will be done to meet building codes for public assembly.
- This is a unique project that brings together a non profit charity (GVGS), government, a local First Nations and Regional community to protect the natural world and build our relationships to support reconciliation.
Constitution and Bylaws
Download our constitution and bylaws here.
See What We Have Been Doing for Nature and Community
Our Newsletter Archive
GVGS Board of Directors and Advisors
Bob McMinn (Chair)
Bob is a retired forest ecologist with over 40 years of professional experience throughout BC. He is passionate about keeping as much of the Highlands as possible in its natural state. This motivated him to start the Highlands District Community Association and enter politics to become the first Mayor of the District of Highlands. During his term of office, parklands were increased to 30% of the Highlands. Increasing parkland and protected space is a thrust that subsequent councils have continued. In 2010 Bob recognized the potential for the Mary Lake property as a great addition to green space in the Highlands.
Awards: Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Canada 125 and BC Good Citizenship Medals and the District of Highlands Freedom of the Municipality are recognition of his many years’ service to the Highlands and the Greater Victoria Community.
Koi Neah (Vice Chair)
Koineah has lived in the Highlands for 16 years and her deep love of the natural world has kept her involved with the GVGS since 2011. Her ability to think outside of the box was developed during 15 years as a designer in the theatre, television, and film industries. For over 25 years she facilitated community workshops for holistic wellness and alternative living gaining skills in community building, and non-violent communication. Her participation in decolonization work locally and nationally has inspired her contributions to the W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary project. She has initiated the WNS Management Plan, cultivated relationships with local environmental groups and First Nations and as well, acts as project manager for the Nature Sanctuary including interior renovations.
Libby McMinn (Secretary)
Libby McMinn had the privilege of a childhood lived amongst the forests of the Highlands on the traditional and unceded territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ people. Post-secondary education took her to Ottawa and Calgary where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work. She worked in community based social services and later, in public education and awareness programs on environmental issues, and volunteered with environmental and community development organizations. Libby served on the Advisory Committee for the development of the District of Highlands Integrated Community Sustainability Plan and was a founding member and co-chair of the Highlands Community Garden.
Eric Bonham (Director)
Eric is a retired civil engineer and formerly a Director with the Ministries of Environment and Community Services. He is a founding member of the Partnership for Water Sustainability BC, past-chair of the Highlands Stewardship Foundation, was a Board member of the Gowlland Foundation, and currently is a Director of the BC Lake Stewardship Society. An advocate for citizen commitment and engagement at both the community and provincial level for which he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and an Honorary Citizen of Victoria recognition. Eric was a member of the Highlands Groundwater Task Force, founding member of the Friends of Fork Lake Stewardship Group and a Director on the Highlands District Community Association.
Christine Bhopalsingh (Director)
Christine’s work experience has crisscrossed both the private and public sectors over the past 32+years. Her most recently held positions as Wellness Manager and Senior Human Resources Advisor, have informed her drive to achieving excellence by serving others. A graduate of Royal Roads University, Christine has completed a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching and is also accredited in ICISF training (International Critical Incident Stress Foundation). Striving to give back to and broaden leadership in the community realm, she was past President for the India School of Dance, Music and Theatre (Winnipeg MB) from 2010-2014 and is currently the President of the West Shore Arts Council (2018-present). Always an artist at heart, her love of nature and all things creative, helps her remain resilient in the face of change & adversity.
Emma Ross (Director)
Emma is co-owner of Wilder Restoration; a regenerative landscape company serving Southern Vancouver Island and previously worked as the engagement and community outreach specialist for the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society. She recently graduated from Royal Roads University with a B. SC. in Environmental Science degree. Prior to that she studied Ecosystem Management at Fleming College in Ontario. Her passion for protecting the W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary (formerly Mary Lake) began through her education at Royal Roads University. She and a team of peers were tasked with conducting research on the water quality of Mary Lake and the creation of a lake and stream monitoring program. Since then, she has joined the board of directors and continues to conduct water quality testing on the lake.
Carolyn Sampson (Director)
Carolyn is of Coast Salish and Nez Perce heritage. Born and raised on the Tsartlip First Nation. Attended both UVic and Gonzaga University. Works for Correctional Services Canada as an Indigenous Community Development Officer, with a strong and lengthy volunteer history in the human services area. Passionate about traditional plants and medicines as a way of life and to heal the body, spirit, and soul by walking with the natural rhythm of the ancestors.
Lynn Osborn (Director)
Lynn has spent several years working for MLA’s, an MP and several government Ministers. She has been involved in many community projects such as serving on the board of New Vista Care Home in Burnaby, as well as volunteering for Burnaby Wildlife Rescue as well as serving on the board of the CNIB in Victoria. She has also worked with four dog rescues and is currently involved with bringing rescued Galgos from Spain.
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. He launched the Coast Salish Sea Council, participating in the proposal for the Marine Protected Area at Race Rocks in 2000 and raising awareness about the impacts of the proposed LNG plant and Bamberton Development on the Saanich Inlet.
Robin June Hood is a cultural geographer, educator, filmmaker and activist/academic. During 40 years as an international development consultant and educator she has focused on protecting endangered peoples and landscapes and creating strategies for educational renewal. She was on the Rainforest Solutions team that crafted the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement and was the Director of the Community Based Research Institute at Vancouver Island University until 2011
Ben van Drimmelen
BSF, LLB Retired, Biologist and Barrister
Ben worked as a wildlife biologist, habitat biologist and natural resources lawyer for the BC government and for the independent Forest Practices Board. He has been on boards with the Land Trust Alliance of BC, the Victoria Natural History Society and Habitat Acquisition Trust
W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary
1772 Millstream Rd,
Victoria, BC V9B 6E4
Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society
1772 Millstream Rd.
Victoria, BC. V9B 6E4
Registered Charity BN: 11894 6953 RR0001
WSÁNEC Coast Salish
W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary lies within the traditional territories of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.
We recognize the integral role the ancestors of the WSÁNEC Coast Salish Peoples play as past stewards of the Highlands lands.