If you have to step off the trail in order to keep physical distance at Uplands Park, turn around.
That’s the message from the Friends of Uplands Park, a group that’s long been advocating for the public to be mindful of native plant restoration work in the Oak Bay woodland area – where volunteers and students have been working to restore the Garry Oak ecosystem – one of the most endangered and diverse ecosystems in Canada.
Friends of Uplands Park chair Margaret Lidkea thinks recent damage to the park is linked to physical distancing, with people stepping off the path in order to give space to other people in the park.
“Everybody is going off the path, stepping on plants,” Lidkea said. “Some will survive but if you look at the park it’s been trashed in some places.”
Physical distancing orders from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ask people to be mindful of one another’s space while in public, leaving at least six feet between yourself and people who are from outside your household.
But the often narrow pathways at Uplands Park don’t offer a lot of space, Lidkea said. And the park’s native species, such as shooting star or camas plants, are suffering as a result.
“Most people look at it and think it’s grass – it isn’t. The camas leaves look like grass,” Lidkea said of the early spring growth. “People don’t know. They’re not trying to destroy things. People just aren’t aware that the wildflowers are growing in the grass in the meadows.”
Another concern for Lidkea is off-leash dogs. She said many ground-nesting birds are disturbed by pets, and with new people coming to the park, not all are cleaning up after their dogs.
“It’s a lot about education, 99 per cent of our visitors are very kind to the park,” she noted. “But please don’t play catch in the park with your dog.”
Lidkea added if people want to use the park, there are paths through rocky areas, which are good places to stand and step on if needed.