A plan unanimously approved by the Vancouver Park Board on Monday aims to reintroduce some biodiversity into the city’s urban jungles.
According to a staff report, 62 acres of natural areas will be restored or enhanced by the end of the decade, an area that is equivalent to VanDusen Botanical Gardens or three PlayLand amusement parks put together.
The Park Board defines natural areas as forests, wetlands, streams, and other ecosystems with primarily native vegetation and wildlife. This includes older forests in Stanley Park, the forested area that surrounds Fraserview Golf Course, wetlands in Jericho Beach Park, the Still Creek corridor, and Trout Lake.
There are nearly 3,600 acres of total park area in the city, including 1,191 acres of natural area. Another 2,226 acres of natural area are outside of City jurisdiction, particularly Pacific Spirit Park on the western border of the Vancouver Westside neighbourhood.
“Our Biodiversity Strategy lays the foundation for the sustained ecological health of our city,” says Park Board Chair, Sarah Kirby-Yung. “It’s the road map for improving access to nature for all Vancouverites and ensuring biodiversity is a celebrated part of city life well into the future.”
City staff point to Hinge Park, an intertidal area, and the artificial natural island, called Habitat Island, that was built as part of the Olympic Village project. Years after the natural areas were completed, herring are now spawning rocky intertidal areas and a pair of beavers have called the Hinge Park storm-fed wetlands home.
“Hinge Park is a prime example of how with a little creativity we can introduce novel habitats for biodiversity into dense urban neighbourhoods,” says Nick Page, Park Board biologist. “Thanks to the success of Hinge Park we’re actively exploring similar opportunities across the city.”
Previous and ongoing work by the Park Board in Stanley Park has turned the Lost Lagoon and Second Beach area into one of the largest urban great blue heron colonies in North America.
On the other side of the city, Still Creek – which connects to Burnaby Lake – saw its first Chum salmon return in 2012 after city crews performed work to add vegetation and restore a natural surface for the creek. This marked the first time salmon returned to the stream in about 80 years.
And elsewhere in the city along the shorelines, salmon and trout are found in Musqueam Creek, Beaver Creek, Vivian Creek, and Spanish Bank Creek.
In 2013, the Park Board extended the natural shoreline by 185 metres at Jericho Beach Park, at the site of the now-demolished Marginal Wharf structure that was once used by seaplanes and part of a military outpost in the area.
Currently, the Park Board is working with Port Metro Vancouver to restore the Burrard Inlet shoreline at New Brighton Park, located just north of Hastings Park. Plans for the park consist of creating a coastal wetland habitat with an intertidal island and salt marsh that would provide a habitat for fish and birds.
Plans for New Brighton Park
Additionally, the Park Board hopes that natural spaces can also be added to private lands, given that private land accounts for 90 per cent of the Vancouver proper area.
“Private lands can function as corridors to allow wildlife to move between parks, or provide habitat for species tolerant of developed neighbourhoods,” reads the staff report.
Yesterday’s decision by the Park Board aligns with Vancouver City Council’s ‘greenest city’ agenda. In spring 2014, City Council banned residents from cutting down healthy trees on their property and outlined an ‘Urban Forest Strategy’ to preserve the city’s tree canopy and plant 150,000 additional trees on municipal property by 2020.