Volunteers help keep Vancouver's ecosystems on track

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      This summer, there is no shortage of volunteer opportunities in environmental stewardship. Here are some areas to consider if you’re interested in getting outdoors while helping to improve local ecosystems.

      Garbage Patrol

      The banner event is the nationwide Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. See their Web site for details on this happening, which is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, in partnership with other organizations.

      “It’s September 18 to 26,” Ian Hanington, communications specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So that’s the week that the public get involved and do it. There’s some buildup to it throughout the summertime, but in terms of actually hosting a public cleanup event from our end, it doesn’t happen until September.”

      The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup’s Web site gives a whole host of useful pointers on dealing with shoreline debris and waste throughout the year. Get out there and take action now.

      Invasive species removal

      Summer is the perfect time to rip these out by the roots.

      “Invasive species outcompete native species,” Roger Keyes, programs manager at the Stanley Park Ecology Society, said by phone. “So let’s take the case of the English ivy. English ivy is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s a natural thing, if you will. But it’s natural from the Caucasus, but became very popular in Britain, which is why it’s called English ivy. But when it’s in the park and we’ve got lots of it, what it can do is, it can take over the entire understorey of the park.”

      It becomes what is called an ivy desert, Keyes said. “It can alter an entire ecosystem.”

      SPES conservation programs manager Robyn Worcester told the Straight it’s acceptable to use the nickname “invasive butt-kickers” for the society.

      Worcester said she wants to let kids know that SPES is calling out for recruits.

      “They can contact us through our Web site,” Worcester said. “We have a posting on the Volunteer Opportunities page, or they can e-mail us directly.”¦It’s for high-school-age kids who want to come into the park and work for a week. They will learn a bit about local ecology and the problem with invasive plants, but we really need them to provide an active role in removing invasive plants that are trickier or harder to get to.”

      Worcester says there are already legions of volunteers SPES has assigned to pulling ivy.

      “But it’s harder for them to do things like go into the wetlands and remove purple loosestrife or yellow flag iris or some of the other less numerous but way more invasive plants, in areas where we might have to wear waders or trek across the park into other areas to pull them out.”

      So a specialized crew of young people will be helping to make an impact on invasive species taking hold in the park, Worcester said.


      On the issue of replanting, Robyn Worcester is again on the case.

      “In some areas [of Stanley Park] we’ll be going in and removing some patches of invasive plants like blackberry or ivy and then replanting those areas with native species like salmonberry and elderberry,” Worcester explained. “We’ve been doing that quite a lot near water bodies, near wetlands. The hope is to restore some of the habitat in Stanley Park that has been taken over by different types of invasives. So instead of working in the forests, we’re kind of working along the edges and around the water bodies to replace plants. You can see quite a bit of work that we’ve been doing around Ceperley Creek, along Lost Lagoon, and that type of thing. That’s part of our community group, and we also have group events.”

      To help, kids can enroll in the invasive-management program, which includes the replanting, as a community member through the Ivy Busters program, Worcester said.

      Elaine Golds, conservation chair of Burke Mountain Naturalists, told the Straight that interested folk can come out to Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park pier on July 24, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., to see displays and nets placed for fish-habitat restoration.

      “Come and see what lives in water, or what depends on things living in the water,” Golds said by phone.