Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This week I hiked up the Nanoose Notch in search of the beautiful purple Camas flowers that grow in fields under the Garry Oak and Arbutus. The purple Camas was an important staple in first nation’s diet and only grows in the rainshadow climates. I was disappointed because I had missed the bloom by a few weeks. However, I was impressed by a large group of flowering Death Camas, a cream colored cluster of flowers, which also grows from a bulb but is deadly poisonous.

I started my hike after turning right off Fairwinds Drive onto Anchor Road, then Chain Road, and finally onto Link Road. After walking past a large holding tank for water built by Fairwinds I noticed new construction. A building site has been leveled next to an existing house. Several carcasses from Arbutus and Garry Oak trees lay in piles surrounded by newly exposed rock and debris.

The view from the south face of the Nanoose Notch is spectacular, overlooking Nanoose Bay and the surround 2nd growth forest with Mt. Moriarty and Mt. Arrowsmith off in the distance. I can understand why someone would want to build a house there. How many more houses will be built on this slope? How much of the Garry Oak ecosystem will be blasted and leveled to make way for buildings and roads? Where they will get their water from?

On the other side of the hill Fairwinds continues to blasts roads through similarly rare ecosystems and many more are planned. In their most recent newsletter Fairwinds states: “The 1350 acre oceanfront community of Fairwinds has 700 acres remaining to develop which translates into 1600 to 1800 units depending on density. In order to meet the changing times and evolving needs of the community, a detailed masterplan is being prepared with an emphasis on Community and the Environment.”

Public input is needed to protect the rare and endangered Garry Oak ecosystems found on the Nanoose Peninsula. There is an opportunity to significantly change the status quote by developing plans that protect key sites like the Nanoose Notch. Significant buffers around the two lakes, bluffs and meadows should be protected from development while enhancing the quality of life for those who live in the community. Nanoose is one of the last strong holds of the Garry Oak ecosystem, which has been brought to the brink of extinction in British Columbia by agriculture and housing development.

Nanoose Notch is owned in part by Fairwinds with the remainder falling under the jurisdiction of the Federal Department of Defense for a submarine and weapons testing facility. To their credit Fairwinds has built trails or maintained old ones to allow the public to walk on their private land around Enos and Dolphin Lakes as well as onto the slopes of the Nanoose Notch. A joint private and federal partnership should establish an ecological preserve rather than a park, where the emphasis is on human recreation, which can do great damage to such a delicate plant community.

Garry oak ecosystems support high numbers of blue and red-listed species of flora and fauna. These plant communities are red-listed by the BC government and listed as rare and endangered by the federal government of Canada. The Nanoose peninsula is unique because it hosts all of the rare ecosystems that are associated with the Garry oak include maritime meadows, coastal bluffs, vernal pools, grasslands, rock outcrops, and mixed transitional forests.

The designation of plant communities is usually identified by the dominant species, in this case the Garry Oak. However, the entire ecology is dependent upon the other parts that make up the whole. Many bulbs and smaller plants die out if the trees that protect them from the elements are removed. The BC Conservation Data Centre concluded: “At least 694 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants have been identified in Garry oak and associated ecosystems in British Columbia. Garry oak ecosystems are home to more plant species than any other terrestrial ecosystem in coastal British Columbia.”

Send email to or contact the Fairwinds Administrative Office 3455 Fairwinds Drive, Nanoose Bay, BC, V9P 9K6 Phone 468-7054