Park Donation Preserves Sensitive Ecosystem

April 22, 2014

An ecologically sensitive and unique parcel of land in Courtenay will be protected as parkland in perpetuity, thanks to a gift from School District No. 71 (Comox Valley). The 5.53 hectare property, behind G.P. Vanier Secondary School, has been donated by the school district to the City of Courtenay. The donation was announced on Earth Day, April 22.

The property is home to a rare Garry oak woodland, and is also the headwaters of Towhee Creek, a small fish-bearing stream which drains into the Tsolum River.

Board Vice-Chair Janice Caton said the School District completed a multi-year study to determine potential uses for the property. As a result, the district decided the most responsible course of action was to work with the City of Courtenay to establish a permanent community park land.

“It is clear that the school district is not in a position to manage such a sensitive and diverse forest environment, and we are now confident that the necessary stewardship of the land will occur.”

The property’s Garry oak woodland is a remnant of the most northern ecosystem of its kind in Canada. It also hosts a variety of unusual vegetation species.

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said the City’s priority will be ensuring this new park’s environmentally significant features are protected. 

“We’ll be looking into creating a management plan for the property to determine how we can provide the necessary stewardship for these lands,” said Mayor Jangula. “We’re extremely grateful to School District 71 for this beautiful gift to the community.”

The management plan, developed in cooperation with the city and the school district, and in consultation with environmental groups, will determine the best way to balance public access with protecting the park’s ecosystem.

Future plans for the park could include a greenway, improving the City’s overall trail network.

Jack Minard, executive director of the Comox Valley Land Trust, said the donation ensures the property will be preserved. “This is definitely one of those areas described in Nature Without Borders that should not be developed,” he noted. “It has incredible natural significance and sensitivity both as a Garry oak forest and as the headwaters of Towhee Creek.

“I am so thrilled to hear this beautiful site will be preserved as a park,” he continued. “Thank you to everyone who took part in the process, particularly School District 71, for moving such an excellent outcome forward.”

The school district will retain ownership of an adjacent 4.75 hectare hillside parcel. That property’s zoning will not change. The Public Use and Assembly Three Zone would permit several institutional uses and very limited development potential.