Toward restoring the Garden City Lands

When one walks in the Garden City Lands with an alert six senses, one may feel them whisper: “Listen to us.” A post about recent eco-tours describes how the lands spoke to their visitors, who felt lucky to be there. With interpreter Michael Wolfe, the lands told about challenges to their well-being and also showed off some welcome signs of good health, tributes to nature’s tenacity and miracles.

Below the post, April Reeves added a comment:

And should we pave the whole thing, we will not have the opportunity to discover these “internal struggles” with the part of our natural world we have given up to comforts. Thanks a thousand times to Michael Wolfe for having the vision to not only see this but to pass it on to others.

 

Michael has done his large part for the lands all his life. Surprisingly, Canada Lands Company CLC Ltd., the federal land disposer, also played a helpful part in the past five years, when they held title to the lands. CLC mowed the lands each year and had the good sense to take away the cuttings.

Like the fires of old that once were the means for nature and homo sapiens to clear the lands, the mowing helped the bog ecosystem to survive to contend with the ongoing foe, city drainage that draws flow and loss of the acidic water that sphagnum moss helps create and relies on for the competitive advantage that makes it so successful.

At first, CLC chose the wrong season for mowing, the nesting season of spring. Sometimes they let the mowing drag on into the rainy season, when the heavy equipment is more damaging. And it would have been great if they’d marked natural features for the blades to avoid as treasures, just as they marked remnants of the old antenna towers to avoid as hazards. Nevertheless, the adequate mowing meant that the Garden City Lands the company turned over to the City of Richmond can still be restored as sphagnum peat bog and/or food-growing land.

Now it’s up to the City of Richmond to appreciate what it’s got. At minimum, that means equaling CLC’s best performance. One would hope the City will recognize the existence of expertise like Michael Wolfe’s and draw on it. Beyond being a conservation biologist and teacher who knows the lands better than anyone else, Michael is currently the Teacher Consultant for Environmental Sustainability for the School District of Richmond, and the City and School District might be able to work out how his services can be available for the well-being of the Garden City Lands, which is so symbolic of genuine commitment to sustainability, as opposed to greenwashing.

Along with mowing of the lands with best practices, selective removal of invasive species is needed ASAP. For example, there are places where the formidably aggressive Scotch heather is just now moving into thriving patches of bog cranberry, a key native species to conserve, and prompt removal of the invaders will have a high impact before much worse damage is done. There are also many places where living sphagnum moss will flourish if invaders are kept in check. In the longer term, restoration depends on conserved precipitation raising the bog water table to within a foot of the surface even in mid-summer, but that’s a more complex step for a later time—and discussion in a later blog post, I imagine.

Enough of this people talk! Informed action is better. The Garden City Lands are crying out to be heard.

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