Margaret Lidkea of Friends of Uplands Park will be honoured with a B.C. Community Achievement Award May 1 at Government House. (Morgan Cross photo)

Uplands Park champion to earn provincial award

B.C. Community Award for Margaret Lidkea coincides with Sunday’s volunteer celebration

It started as a ‘free range child’ who rode her bike in her neighbourhood of Oaklands from one park to the next in Victoria and Oak Bay.

Spending countless hours in parks and in what Margaret Lidkea calls ‘naturehoods’ is what instilled her passion to spend thousands of her adult hours removing stubborn invasive plants from Uplands Park and Anderson Hill Park. Lidkea went to Lansdowne Middle School and Vic High and graduated as a teacher from the University of Victoria. After teaching a few years she found she preferred working as a programmer at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, where she started in 1988. Soon after that Lidkea created an entire Girl Guides program, from Brownies to Rangers, teaching which plants to protect and which to pull. Then she and a friend co-founded the Friends of Uplands Park, a society with more than 550 people on the mail list and which is credited with removing Scotch broom and gorse from Uplands and Anderson Hill Park.

READ MORE: Old newspapers used in fight against invasive plants

Lidkea’s work has been so significant she’s been nominated for one of the 2019 B.C. Community Achievement Awards and will be recognized at the formal presentation ceremony at Government House on May 1. Each recipient will receive a certificate and a medallion designed by Order of Canada member and B.C. artist Robert Davidson.

“It’s humbling to get this award, just like it has been so humbling to have so many volunteers put their time into Uplands and Anderson Hill,” Lidkea said.

Coun. Hazel Braithwaite wrote a letter nominating Lidkea for a B.C. Community Achievement Award. The longtime Oak Bay resident remembers accompanying her daughter in Brownies over to Uplands Park in the 1990s where Lidkea, as a Girl Guides leader, led an interactive session about invasive plants in Uplands Park.

READ ALSO: Growing Oak Bay’s urban forest on tree appreciation day

It’s a battle that continues today said Lidkea, president of the Friends of Uplands Park.

“We’re still trying to restore the grassy lands that are some of the most diverse in the country, in one of the most unique ecosystems [Garry oak] in the country,” she said.

On Sunday, April 28, the Friends of Uplands Park and Oak Bay Parks are celebrating the Garry Oak Meadow Volunteer Celebration from noon until 3 p.m in Uplands Park. It will feature live music by the Bald Eagles, a band that includes Ron Carter.

It was Carter who worked for Oak Bay Parks and was one of the first people to give Lidkea permission to remove plants from Uplands in 1992.

“You need permission to take anything out of a park, even if it’s invasive,” Lidkea said. “People used to yell at me when they saw me taking the Scotch broom and gorse out of the park. They would phone me to complain.”

It seems silly now, but park goers didn’t understand the pretty yellow flowers of the broom were gorse invasive and were suffocating the wildflowers that were cultivated there for thousands of years by the Songhees people. It took years for the concept of restoring the culturally significant Garry oak ecosystems to take hold, and now Lidkea is humbled by the amount of volunteers who have put in the time to restore Uplands and Anderson Hill.

“We don’t know exactly what it looked like [when Songhees First Nations] managed Uplands but it’s a lot closer [to that now],” Lidkea said.

Today Lidkea manages Friends of Uplands Park, with a volunteer mailing list of over 550 people, and while Lidkea knows they’re not all volunteers, she’s proud to have a list of people who are interested in what the volunteers are doing.

“People are interested because they grew up seeing it and want to know what’s happening,” Lidkea said. “Not all can volunteer but they’re ambassadors who share with others what’s happening in the park.”

One of those is Christina Johnson-Dean, who Lidkea is excited to see leading the Anderson Hill invasive pulling.

“Every Saturday morning that she’s in town, [Johnson-Dean] is there working on Anderson. She’s amazing.”

The Garry Oak Meadow Volunteer Celebration is open to all who volunteer in Greater Victoria parks and who enjoy parks to enjoy food, drinks, activities, wildflowers and prizes. Guest organizations will host displays and activities including the Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society (GOMPS), the Compost Education Centre, Saanich Parks Pulling Together program, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Nature Kids, Friends of Ecological Reserves, World Fisheries Trust, the Community Association of Oak Bay, Victoria Natural History Society and others.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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