While many are avoiding cabin fever by exploring nearby green spaces as the situation with COVID-19 progresses, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary staff remind visitors to follow new safety measures while still respecting the existing rules.
Due to the global health crisis, the nature sanctuary has made a few changes to prevent the spread of the virus including turning the path around Swan Lake into a one-way route and adding signs promoting physical distancing throughout the sanctuary, said Kathleen Burton, executive director of the Nature Sanctuary. She added that the existing rules regarding no dogs, no smoking and remaining on the trail are still in effect.
The Nature Sanctuary includes two different ecosystems: the marshland surrounding Swan Lake and the rocky forest region of Christmas Hill. Both are home to a variety of native plants and animal species which staff work hard to protect.
For this reason, as “has always been the case” dogs are not permitted on the property, Burton said. Saanich has a bylaw banning dogs in the nature sanctuary due to the sensitive environments.
“Wild animals should be finding sanctuary here, not being disturbed by dogs,” Burton said.
Some parts of the sanctuary are also off-limits to people, she added. For example, the location of the recently demolished south wharf is blocked off and a large portion of Christmas Hill was fenced off in September 2019. Restoration work is taking place at both sites as staff hope to re-naturalize the old wharf location and promote native plant growth on Christmas Hill.
Burton emphasized that the rules are “not to punish people” and that residents are still invited to enjoy the nature sanctuary during the pandemic but are asked to do so safely and respectfully.
Other pandemic-induced changes include educational nature programs led by sanctuary staff moving online as the Nature House has been closed since mid-March. The Swan Lake parking lot has also been temporarily closed to encourage alternative modes of transportation and reduce close contact with others. Visitors are reminded that there is currently no nearby parking as street parking is reserved for residents in the area.