Soil, on which all life outside the ocean depends, has been created in part by thousands of years of falling leaves. As they fall down, life rises up. It’s the perennial gift that keeps on giving, but a resource that is often overlooked. After a year of drought we should all be stockpiling leaves to use as a protective mulch for next year’s garden. Broken down leaf mould can hold 300 to 500% of its weight in water. Rich topsoil, by comparison, holds about 60%. Leaf mulch holds in moisture, adds organic matter to the soil and provides nutrients to plants. It’s as precious as bullion to plants and beneficial insects, so whatever you do, don’t burn leaves or throw them away in a large plastic bag!
No Mow May is fun and a lazy way to start the summer and is a fantastic way to help the birds and the bees. It is also something we all have the skills to do and it will really help all the wildlife that depends on the creatures and plants in our gardens, meadows, and roadside ditches. If we delay mowing until after the end of May, we may be surprised how quickly Nature responds. So, is there a patch you can protect?
Spring is the season of breeding and feeding young. Birds need their nests undisturbed, and they need bugs and caterpillars to feed their young for a few weeks. Bird feeders do not cut it for the baby birds. There used to be a lot more food for the birds but insects are in decline. Remember when there were many more bugs? All over our windshields?
The Yellow Point Ecological Society supports the vision of the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Nature Conservancy of Canada to build a network of interconnected wild yards, hedgerows, fields, rights of way and roadsides that can be left undisturbed during the spring breeding season (and the fall too!).
If we can make our backyards more pollinator friendly and chat to our neighbours to get them on board with our “new look”, we can have a big impact. Citizen science done by the British organization Plantlife shows that the simple act of No Mow May can increase the number of bees in your yard tenfold. Doug Tallamy’s book Nature’s Best Hope gives wonderful advice on the native species we should plant to turn our back yards into refuges for wildlife. There is a growing body of knowledge and native plant supplies on Vancouver Island. The Nanaimo Area Land Trust has started a Pollinators Paradise project, to promote the use of native pollinator-friendly plants and other ways to support pollinators. They are launching their project web page this month – so watch this space.
The Ministry of Transportation is also part of the solution. They are responsible for keeping the vegetation within 1.8 m of the road below 25 cm high, for traffic safety. In May, the Contractors are usually busy cleaning up the gravel and controlling the dust along the roadsides and do not start mowing until June. They delay mowing so they only mow once a season (and save the taxpayers’ money). Often, they cannot mow for most of the summer due to fire hazards, so the vegetation is brushed or mowed in August or September. If rights of way were planted with low, resilient shrubs and herbaceous native plants which do not need mowing, this might also keep invasive species from dominating. The Contractor I spoke to said he had worked in areas with healthy ecosystems, where the native vegetation grew in the rights of way and kept the invasive species away. Invasive plant species do not suit native wildlife but that is a topic for another day.
For now, it would be great to grow the support for No Mow May. It is an easy way to help protect wildlife and their habitats during the sensitive breeding season. If we must mow, we should mow as high as possible. It will be better for the lawn, and the ground dwelling bees. Perhaps we can create refuges in spaces away from the lawn. In this way we can mitigate the biodiversity crisis and save our money, time, and energy.
How Can We Protect the Forest on Private Land? On Vancouver Island, forests are threatened with being clearcut on private land, as well as on Crown Land and Private Managed Forest Land. We created this short video in 2019 to highlight the ways in which we can protect the forest.
Our YESBioBlitz involving the whole community is over! Details HERE.
National Geographic says “a BioBlitz is an opportunity to take a snapshot of the biodiversity in a specific place. In a BioBlitz event, students, scientists, naturalists, and community members join together to find and identify as many plants, animals, and other organisms as possible in a short period of time.”
Here is the video presentation by Mandy Hobkirk, from the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve, and Carrie-Lyn Robinson, in preparation for our YES BioBlitz.
So if you live or are visiting anywhere on the map below, including Ladysmith, Yellow Point, Cassidy, South Wellington and Cedar, or you’d like to visit one of our beautiful parks that weekend, we invite you to join our BioBlitz.
Step 2: Start practising. Find any plant, flower or wandering frog. You can take a photo using the app, or record a sound. You can also take a photo using your phone’s regular camera, and select it for identification in iNaturalist by clicking ‘Add’. Don’t forget the world of lichens and fungi – click here for some amazing examples from Greg Roberts in the Holland Creek Watershed, Ladysmith.
Step 3: What did you see? The app will suggest its likely name, based on four million observations by Canadian naturalists.
Step 4: Click SHARE, and fellow naturalists will ensure that it has the correct identification.
Step 5: Click ‘More’, then ‘Projects’, then ‘Search’, enter YESBioBlitz, then click ‘Join’.
What a year! During the summer we were able to hold our socially distanced Board meetings in one of our Board members’ garden, but otherwise, like everyone, we have migrated to Zoom, where the phrase of the year is surely “You’re on Mute!”
Our passion to protect and restore Nature has not been on mute, however. Our mailing list now has 287 members, our Facebook Group has 297 members, and our website had 30,000 views in 2020. 20,000 were for the page on Common Yard Birds on Eastern Vancouver Island created by Ian Reilly, and 10,000 were for our other pages, led by the Yellow Point Trail, with over 2,000 views.
Early in the year we launched our YES Nature Photo Contest, the winner of which we will announce following after the AGM.
We also continued to offer community meetings, moving to Zoom in March.
In January, we had an evening to prepare for the new and improved ModernizedOfficial Community Plan for the CVRD, on which we are awaiting news of the next steps from the CVRD. We want to engage productively, and find ways to ensure that the protection of nature is included.
In February we explored the potential for Environmental Development Permit Areas as one possible way to protect the forest, with guest speakers Peter Grove, a Salt Spring Islands Trust Trustee who has made it his #1 commitment to get a DPA crafted to protect the forest, and Marilyn Palmer, from North Cowichan, an architect and community leader who seeks greater collaboration to protect our landscapes, forests and watersheds.
In May, Jain Alcock-White spoke about Cultivating a Relationship with Nature, sharing her knowledge of the benefits of nature immersion, plant communication, and how some medicinal nature plants can reduce stress and anxiety.
In July, Nikki Wright gave a presentation on the importance of Eelgrass in the ocean, the various ways in which it is being damaged and destroyed, and the efforts that she and her team at the SeaChange Marine Conservation Society have been making to restore it.
In November, we held a Zoom community meeting when Elke Wind shared her experience on Why Landscape Context Matters in Wetland Conservation, with a special focus on toads, and their migration patterns between their wetland breeding areas and their winter hibernaculums.
In November we also hosted a Candidates Forum for the Area H Election, providing the wider community with an opportunity to hear from our two candidates, Ben Maartman and Murray McNab, and to ask them questions. The election two weeks later was won by Ben Maartman, by the narrow margin of eight votes.
In December, we held a Zoom community meeting where the lawyer Ruben Tilman presented his thoughts on How Can We Protect the Forest on Private Land? Ruben worked with the Environmental Law Centre at UVic and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation to write a recent report on Legal Measures to Protect the Gulf Islands Coastal Douglas-fir Zone.
Throughout the year we have been working on two big projects. The first is researching and writing a big Handbook ,titled The Nature of Yellow Point – A Guide for Landowners. This is a major undertaking, with 45 two-to-four page chapters. For each chapter, one of us has taken the lead, researching and writing it, followed by review, layout and design. We hope that it will be published and available sometime during 2021.
Our second big project is our proposal for a Yellow Point Trail, a safe separated multi-purpose trail all the way around Yellow Point Road, from the Chuckwagon to Cedar. During the summer Pamela Walker, one of our YES Directors, dreamed up an imaginative way to get people talking, gathering old bikes, painting them yellow, and hanging them around the route of the proposed trail. This revealed a huge level of local support, including from local businesses. Combined with a lot of outreach to local politicians and officials, YES has been approved to head up the Joint Management Committee with the RDN, the CVRD and Ministry of Transportation. Our goal now is to find $28,000-$40,000 to pay for the Feasibility Study for the proposed trail. We are seeking volunteers who will be willing to walk 2 kilometres of the trail, making notes on the condition of the land on either side of the road, within the public right of way.
Thanks to all the publicity and the community support, the Ministry of Transportation decided to prioritize adding a paved bike lane to Cedar Road between Code Road and Haslam Road, which is now complete, and just awaits painting. We have asked if they can extend it up into Cedar, but that will depend on their next year’s budget.
During the summer we also organized a Community Broom Pull to clear the broom along part of Yellow Point Road, and two Ivy-Pulls to clear an invasive patch of ivy in the heart of Hemer Park, supported by BC Parks staff.
We also obtained, repotted and sold two hundred Douglas fir tree and cedar seedlings, which are now in the ground, hopefully protected from the deer. The volunteers in our Yellow Point Trash Challenge have also continued to pick up and recycle trash along our local roads.
As 2021 begins we are starting a new project with Carrie Robinson titled Yellow Point Ecology Mapping: Discovering the Unrecorded Wetlands. Carrie is a GIS Masters Student at VIU, and her practicum project, for which YES is the sponsor, will involve spatial data analysis and ground-truthing to establish the GPS coordinates of local wetlands, meetings with landowners who give permission for Carrie to visit their land, the visual identification of flora and fauna, and the potential roll-out of a community Bioblitz in the spring to identify species at the mapped wetlands sites. This will result in an interactive Web Map to which landowners and others can contribute, which can also hopefully contribute to the development of the new CVRD OCP.
Our year ended with the bulk purchase of 48 copies of Briony Penn’s book A Year on the Wildside: A West Coast Naturalist’s Almanac, which we resold into the community both as a fundraiser for YES, and so that we could share Briony’s humorous and deeply informed writing.
A few keen local citizens donned their hiking boots and clip boards and walked the proposed trail from the Chuckwagon Store to the Crow & Gate. They were looking for two things: the answer to the questions, “If we had a trail on just one side, which would it be?” and “What natural and man-made impediments are in the way of creating a trail. Everything from culverts to boulders to hydro poles and fences was carefully marked on maps. The information was put onto a map using GIS technology by Carrie-Lynn Robinson, a VIU GIS (Geographic Information Systems) along with actual photos of the troubled spots. It is hoped that all this work will save money in the long run when we put the “shovels in the ground.”
Our conclusion is that a widened shoulder is feasible, but we need a feasibility study for the separated multi-use trail, which may need some detours. We presented the survey results at the second meeting of the Joint Management Committee in April with MOTI, RDN and CVRD, and we are working with the RDN and CVRD Directors for support to apply for Active Transportation Funds or Gas Tax to fund this. We also presented a proposed Terms of Reference for the Committee and need further board approvals to move forward on this.
Widening More Shoulder
MOTi has now complete the shoulder from Haslam to Yellow Point Road on one side, and plans to install a shoulder on the other side back to Code Rd and then to the Highway. There is a path on both sides of the road from Quennel to Yellow Point Road.
Trans Canada Trail Link
We have had discussions with CVRD and RDN staff in regards to the Trans Canada Trail. The trail could come from Ladysmith to the Diamond and along to Cedar, across the highway to the Park and Ride, along the secondary road to the east of the highway to the airport, around the airport on a dedicated trail to the golf course, and then down Haslam Road and along Cedar Rd. This change in the route would mean that the Trail would not have to stop at the Nanaimo River where it waits for money for a bridge to be put in. Funds already allocated for the bridge could be used to create a dedicated off-road path instead. A path through the airport lands has already been proposed and is awaiting approval from the Nanaimo Airport Board. More on this soon!
Yellow Brooms have been put up around Cedar Road where the pavement has been widened to accommodate bicycles and buggies and buddies walking side-by-side. To keep the path free of gravel, we have installed a few yellow brooms. Help everyone out by brooming away the rocks as you roll by. Together, we can make it better.
Yellow Point Trail Video
We are making a short video about the need for the Yellow Point Trail . If you’re interested in seeing your name in lights, give Pam a call. 250 245-9155.
Support for the Trail
New Yellow Point Trail business cards have been designed and printed. We are handing them out to people in the area who are interested in and would like to know about the trail. If you’d like some, let us know; we have a limited supply.
We are planning a future public meeting on the trail. If you would like to be on our mailing list please sign up and indicate your interests on the form HERE.
Update, December 18th 2020
The RDN, CVRD and Ministry of Transportation have approved YES leadership of the new Joint Management Committee, and our goal now is to find $28,000 to pay for a Feasibility Study for the proposed trail.
Thanks to all the Yellow Bikes publicity and community support, the Ministry of Transportation decided to prioritize adding a paved bike lane to Cedar Road between Code Road and Haslam Road, which is now complete, and just awaits painting. We have asked if they can extend it up into Cedar, but that will depend on their next year’s budget. We asked if they could paint a double white line to separate the bike path from the road to create more safety for cyclists, but they resisted, saying it would cost an extra $50,000, which was not in their budget. We still aspire to have a properly separated multi-purpose trail along that stretch.
The community response to the Yellow Bikes, the article in Take 5 Magazine, and on the Cedar and Yellow Point Facebook groups has been very positive. 90% of the comments on Facebook are either enthusiastically supportive, or supportive as long is taxes are not raised to pay for a trail.
We have a strong committee guiding our way forward. Thanks to everyone who is helping!
On September 15th we presented to the RDN Board, where we received a very positive response. A Notice of Motion was proposed that the RDN name one person to join the Joint Management Committee, and offer its support for the project. This will be voted on at the next RDN Board Meeting on October 27th
On September 15th we presented to the CVRD Electoral Area Services Committee, where we received a similarly positive response, referring our request to the CVRD Board on October 14th. This is the slide deck that we presented:
We have a vision of safe, healthy, sustainable travel and recreation in the Yellow Point area – and everywhere.
We believe there is a strong need in Yellow Point for a safe separated trail that could be used by walkers, cyclists, mobility devices and, in some areas, horse riders.
Practically, there may need to be a combination of trail designs to suit local conditions and the cost of building, with a separated trail in some areas and a widened shoulder in others. The trail’s development could also be phased to address areas of higher need first.
The Proposed Route
We propose a 22 kilometres multi-use trail connecting local parks, schools, businesses, markets and community centres, in a circular route around Yellow Point and Cedar roads, with 10 km of connectors:
(a) from the Chuckwagon to the Highway 1 / Cedar Rd S. Park and Ride and to Nanaimo airport/bus stop
(b) From Cedar Road N. to Macmillan Road, on the way to the Duke Point Ferry.
The trail would connect users to nine parks, including Hemer, Roberts Memorial, Yellow Point Park, Wildwood Ecoforest, and the Ladysmith Bog Ecological Reserve, and to:
Schools – Cedar Elementary and Secondary, North Oyster and Woobank
The softball fields in Cedar
Churches – Cedar United and St Phillip’s Anglican
Cedar and North Oyster community centres
Businesses, stores and markets, including 49th Parallel Grocers and Friesen’s
Resorts and campsites, including Yellow Point Lodge, Zuiderzee, Inn on the Sea
Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants, including the Crow and Gate, Coco Café, Slice Resto, the Mahle House, the Wheatsheaf and the Cranberry Arms.
Where Should the Trail Go?
The path would be built within the existing Right of Way (ROW), on land that is owned by the province. The roads along the proposed route are typically 6 metres wide on a 20 metres ROW, allowing 7 metres of space on either side for a trail. In some areas, the property lines are wonky, so the layout may need to vary.
In many places the roads are unsafe for non-car users, with blind hills, blind bends, narrow shoulders, and some drivers who are just going TOO FAST!
Cedar Rd has a fog line and narrow paved shoulder, but Yellow Point Road is mostly without a paved shoulder and is probably more dangerous.
Potential Path Users
Our kids walking to school
Cyclists commuting, exercising and volunteering and touring
Dogwalkers going to the parks
Businesses and community services – bike repair, coffee shops, farm stalls, softball players
And so much more
Future Potential Connections
In the long run, the train could connect to other present and future trails:
On the first day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, a black bear in our apple tree.
On the second day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the third day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the fourth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the fifth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the sixth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the seventh day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the eighth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the ninth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the tenth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, ten cyclists cycling, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the eleventh day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, eleven hikers hiking, ten cyclists cycling, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
On the twelfth day of Yellow Point my true love sent to me, twelve flowers a-flowering, eleven hikers hiking, ten cyclists cycling, nine orcas leaping, eight frogs a-peeping, seven herring spawning, six sea-lions feasting, five forest walks, four calling ravens, three barred owls, two Steller’s jays, and a black bear in our apple tree.
We are finally beginning to understand the tremendous benefits of trees and forests.
We know that trees filter air pollutants and give us fresh clean oxygen to breath. They also store groundwater, purify our drinking water, and capture vast quantities of carbon. They keep us cool in summer, protect us from winter chills, and provide us with food, fuel, lumber, fibres, crafts and medicine. It’s almost as if we need trees to survive (WE DO!).
But trees don’t only benefit humans – they also create and nurture their own ecosystems and support vital biodiversity. Trees immensely help other plants and wildlife to flourish, they keep river habitat healthy, help protect and replenish our watersheds and aquifers, and improve soil conditions for an immeasurable number of below-ground critters.
Trees provide all these valuable services for free, 24 hours a day, without complaining. Yet they are sometimes treated as if they were unimportant objects, appreciated solely for their dollar value.
Incredibly, there has been a recent wave of research that delves deeper into the mystery of trees. New studies and compelling literature suggest that trees can communicate with each other, pass information, share nutrients with other trees and plants, and even recognize and nurture their offspring. This would imply that trees think, care, and feel pain.
Even more mysterious is the idea that trees can help humans on a spiritual level. Around the world, studies have shown that by spending time immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of a forest we can lower our stress levels, improve our memory functions, lower our blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression. Many countries consider ‘forest bathing’ a recognized form of health care. Hanging out in a forest can actually make us happier and healthier.
We could all use a little more tree time!
The Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.) hopes to inspire local residents and visitors to appreciate the enormous gifts we receive from our precious forests.
Together, let’s speak out to protect what remains of our forest, so that the trees can continue to protect and nurture the complex and biodiverse ecosystem that lives beneath their branches – including us.
Please join us for our monthly Yellow Point nature hikes! Or February hike is on the 11th at 11:00am at the Yellow Point Ecological Reserve (meet at the end of Whiting Way, no dogs please). Our March hike will be at Wildwood, March 11th at 11:00. See you there!