Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary received some timely protection, thanks to a grant from the provincial government and the efforts of a dedicated group of partners.
The B.C. Government announced a $1.4 million grant to preserve sensitive ecosystems and protect the property as a conservation area at Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary, a 17-hectare property in the Highlands near the centre of the Millstream Watershed that is home to a diverse variety of plants and animal species.
The Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society (GVGS), a local non-profit, purchased 27 hectares of property that includes the sanctuary in 2016 for about $2 million.
The Capital Regional District purchased a 10-hectare section of the property to close a gap in the regional trail connection between Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and Thetis Lake Regional Park in the summer of 2018. In November of that year, the Tsartlip First Nation became partners for the protection of the lake property, which sits within the traditional territory of the WSANEC (Saanich) Coast Salish peoples.
A unique partnership between the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society, the Tsartlip First Nation and the government of B.C., with the support of numerous local organizations and individuals has made this possible, the GVGS said in a media release. “The GVGS is looking forward to continuing our collaborations with the Tsartlip Nation to determine how the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary and Nature House will be managed to promote conservation, respect for nature and cultural values.”
Premier John Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, said in a statement that the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary provides the community with an opportunity to connect with nature and deepen people’s understanding of B.C.’s unique ecology. “It is also an opportunity to strengthen our understanding of Indigenous knowledge and culture through a partnership with the Tsartlip First Nation,” Horgan said.
Highlands Mayor Ken Williams thanked the province on behalf of Highlands residents for its generosity in helping the successful partnership of Tsartlip First Nation and Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society “preserve this spectacular natural asset known as the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary.”
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait called the announcement of the grant great news for the entire region and applauded the efforts of the partners involved.
“There is a lot to learn from our Indigenous communities about how to live in harmony with nature,” Tait added.
Future plans involve placing covenants to protect the property in the future as a conservation area and rezoning from residential property to a nature sanctuary with a nature house for public use. The Highlands Nature House is within the property.
For more information or to donate, visit marylakeconnections.ca.