Champion of Dunbar Village.
Dunbar is privileged to have magnificent Pacific Spirit Regional Park backing onto the neighbourhood. Twice the size of Stanley Park, it boasts 78 kilometres of forested trails frequented by walkers, runners, bicyclists and horse riders.
Established in 1989, Pacific Spirit Regional Park was originally part of the University Endowment Lands. It was created as a natural forest preserve and is part of Metro Vancouver’s park system. Covering 763 hectares, the park consists of foreshore (including Wreck Beach), forest and Camosun Bog and is home to a variety of birds, small and large mammals and amphibians.
A number of rare native plants and some of the few remaining old-growth trees in the Lower Mainland can be found in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The biodiversity of this rich ecosystem is threatened by the spread of invasive plants, especially English holly and ivy. However, all is not lost. The community is fortunate to have the dedicated Pacific Spirit Park Society (PSPS) led by program coordinator Krista Voth along with a committed board of directors and an army of volunteers (totalling 275) who act as public stewards of the park.
Krista is a former Waldorf and Montessori teacher. She is studying geography at UBC and has a keen interest in the way urban parks are used and cared for by the public. Beyond her course work in the Environment and Sustainability program, her research focuses on citizen science data collection and social inclusion in public parks. She is always looking for new ways to educate people and her enthusiasm is contagious.
PSPS provides opportunities for volunteers to engage in stewardship projects and citizen science data collection, as well as offering a variety of volunteer run education programs.
Krista mentions that approximately 80 per cent of the volunteers in the stewardship and data collection programs are youth and young adults between 14 to 25 years of age. There are a number of ways volunteers contribute to Pacific Spirit Park Society.
Eco Team volunteers meet on Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. to remove invasive plants and help plant native species. Between 30 to 50 people come out each week to lend a hand and keep the Himalayan blackberry, holly and ivy at bay. Volunteers also assist in mapping illegal trails created by walkers and cyclists; they close off the trails by replanting and fencing them.
The Eco Watch program provides opportunities for volunteers to map and monitor the spread of invasive plants and to test the water quality in two of the Park’s streams that support salmon populations. Volunteers gain experience in the environmental science field and develop GPS mapping skills – the intention is to evaluate the effectiveness of the invasive plant removal programming and monitor the health of wildlife habitat.
Krista is excited to report that PSPS has recently received a TD Friends of the Environment grant to help fund their newest program: Eco Kits. The interactive educational kits include activities and lessons that are perfect for teachers and students visiting the park. Currently, bog and forest kits are being piloted and this fall the selection will expand to include streams and ponds.
Another popular program is Eco Walks, a partnership between PSPS and UBC’s Tapestry independent retirement community located near the park. PSPS offers a monthly nature walk and talk to a maximum of 15 people – Krista says there is always a waiting list.
Volunteer recruitment happens naturally. Like the spreading ivy, volunteers spread the word about their positive experiences and bring new helpers into the fold.
Krista says, “There is no minimum commitment of time, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Some volunteers come once, while others return week after week. People come from as far as Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey to offer their services. Some are students who are looking to fulfill volunteer hours required by their schools, others are retirees or people who don’t have yards.”
“Volunteering with PSPS helps people get out in nature who might not otherwise get a chance.” Krista Voth
The society partners with many local schools including Immaculate Conception School, Lord Byng Secondary, Queen Elizabeth Elementary, St. George’s School and University Hill Secondary. It has also formed a network with Eastside schools.
As well, PSPS partners with South Vancouver settlement agencies, new immigrants and international students. These groups are eager to participate in order to learn more about nature and Canada.
Krista mentions, “It is very satisfying for volunteers to see the results of their work.” She would like people to know that PSPS always welcomes new volunteers.
What does Krista find most rewarding about her work? “Definitely working with the volunteers. My favourite day is Saturday. I come home saying, ‘I have the best job in the world.’ People come out in all weathers – it’s a real highlight.” she says.
Thank you to these Champions of Dunbar Village who contribute countless hours for the betterment of the community. Like the name of the park, your boundless team ‘spirit’ is recognized and appreciated.