Natural wonders: Protecting the critters and habitat in our region's parks

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      From sandy beaches to coastal rainforests, Metro Vancouver's regional parks provide us with much needed green spaces where we can walk the trails, breath in some fresh air, and catch a glimpse of the local wildlife.

      Though undoubtedly beautiful spots to hike, run, and cycle, these regional parks are so much more than a fitness centre or a backdrop for Instagram posts. Parks provide us with essentials like clean air and water. They also offer us respite from the everyday and a boost to our physical and mental health, increasing feelings of happiness and decreasing depression and anxiety.

      “These are the places from which our water, our air, our land, [and] our space comes from—and we're all part of it, even if we live in a high-rise in the middle of the city,” said Lori Bartley, a park interpretation specialist for Metro Vancouver Regional Parks.

      Bartley works to foster deeper connections between residents and nature, leading tours and field trips for adults and children alike. She hopes to inspire locals not only to appreciate parks, but to want to protect them as well.

      It's a mindset that Roy Teo, stewardship technician for Metro Vancouver Regional Parks, shares. Teo’s job involves creating an inventory of the plants and animals living in the parks he oversees.

      "It's very important to know what's out there, since we protect it,” he explains.

      Teo also identifies areas that need enhancement or restoration, which often involves removing invasive species and planting beneficial ones.

      The rich flora and fauna in Pacific Spirit Regional Park deserves our protection.
      COLIN KNOWLES/FLICKR

      The habitat Teo’s team works to protect is closer to home than you realize. For example, mere minutes away from city life, Pacific Spirit Regional Park houses an ecological reserve, an environmentally sensitive area that is closed to the public.

      This and other parks in our region are made up of—and sustained by—an incredible diversity of species and habitat. You may recognize a Douglas-fir or spot a squirrel scampering through the brush. But what else are these parks protecting that may not be obvious at a glance?

      Deas Island Regional Park is home to one of the province’s largest maternal bat colonies. Metro Vancouver offers bat programs to help residents better understand and appreciate the endangered species. Additionally, biologists tag the bats to monitor issues such as the deadly fungus, white nose syndrome.

      METRO VANCOUVER REGIONAL PARKS/VIMEO

      “If you want to talk about a great example of an animal that needs some understanding, it's bats,” said Teo. “They're incredible insect feeders that contribute to the ecological system. By understanding [them, we can help] protect them, because they’re a species at incredible risk right now.”

      The protection of Metro Vancouver’s diverse habitat and landscapes enables an incredible range of plants and animals to thrive in the region’s parks. “For example, at Burnaby Lake Regional Park, you'll see western painted turtles basking on the shore or on logs that are out in the pond,” Teo added.

      A western painted turtle sunbathes in Burnaby Lake Regional Park.
      RUTH HARTNUP/FLICKR

      The presence of these turtles, which are an endangered species, can also be attributed to Metro Vancouver Regional Parks which, along with volunteers from the Burnaby Lake Park Association, built the beach that the turtles lay their eggs on. This dedicated team has worked to create habitat for the turtles, enabling visitors to view yet another unique species in our region’s beautiful parks.

      These precious landscapes make up only a few of the 22 regional parks managed by Metro Vancouver. It oversees the protection of 13,614 hectares of park land—all located within the traditional homelands of the Coast Salish First Nations—including three regional park reserves, two ecological conservancy areas, and five regional greenways.

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