By ROB JOHNSON
The path winds through Ladysmith’s Holland Creek Trail offering a new vista with each turn. The coolness of the forest refreshes you, the sounds of the cascading waterfall as it rushes to the sea is mesmerizing. All the stress of the day melts away. Welcome to the world outside office walls.
The most popular trail in the community is utilized by all ages and fitness levels. The trail is a cornerstone of our outdoor community life and yet not long ago, it wasn’t there.
It was mostly bush until the early nineties when residents brought forth a plan to make the creek and the woods accessible to more people. Up until the present trail system, the “creek” was almost the exclusive domain of the youth of Ladysmith. On any sunny day, you could find them fishing or swimming there. Today the trail enjoys many users; families with small children enjoying a pleasant walk along the trail, dog walkers and runners getting their cardio workout. The Holland Creek Trail has become an important part of the social life of Ladysmith. And while at first it may seem like everything is peaceful here, the reality is that the trail is under attack.
Take a short walk though the trail and you’ll quickly spot invasive species such as holly, Scotch broom, St John’s Wort, and English ivy. These plants become quickly established and spread quickly.
Everything that is green isn’t good. Invasive species of plants are changing the ecosystem and threatening the nature of the forest. They are considered to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity.
Invasive species are non-native plants usually brought in by accident or intentionally introduced. Unfortunately they tend to be voracious and thrive to the exclusion of our native plants. They are highly competitive, and are prolific in seed production. Often, these plants have no natural predators to help control their spread.
How did these plants manage to get a foothold along the trail? In some cases the seeds were spread by birds or the wind, but in many other cases it is from residents that have used the woods along the trail as dumping grounds for their yard and garden waste. If you go along the trail behind the public works yard or the police station or even the private homes that back on to the trail you will find dense patches English ivy and St Johns Wort. This is worrisome as English ivy can quickly strangle trees leading to the weakening of the banks and erosion of the trail. Some of the trees here are completely covered by ivy. Unless it is removed they are doomed.
Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission reported in their October 20, 2010 meeting that some of their members “have charted most of the invasive species in Ladysmith.” The Commission went on to encourage Ladysmith to adopt a program and to plan an event to promote awareness and to educate, while encouraging residents to join work parties to remove invasive species. Unfortunately attempts to establish a work party failed due to various circumstances, so this hasn’t happened as yet.
At the CVRD level, there are at least 16 organizations that protect or enhance endangered ecosystems. At home we have Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission and working to enhance the creek with its salmon program is Ladysmith Fish and Game Club. The Friends of Holland Creek played a significant role in protecting the trail from encroaching development. Last year the Province made $3 million available through Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations to “Take Action”. Some of this money went to hiring people across the province to help prevent and reduce the spread of invasive species. Check out http://www.bcinvasives.ca/programs/outreach/take-action.
There are opportunities for the Town of Ladysmith and other concerned groups to access some of these services, but what is needed is a champion. Unless someone steps forward to initiate this, the Holland Creek Trail is in danger of being overrun by invasive species although it is well maintained by the Town.
At present the south side is not nearly as bad as the north side of the trail, especially adjacent to the Public Works yard and the police station. These spots have well established plants that are choking out native trees and plants. It was common in years past to throw garden waste and other material over the bank. But hopefully today we know better and understand the consequences of allowing invasive species free reign.
What can you and I do to help solve this problem?
If you are a home owner, be responsible with your garden waste. Don’t dump it but dispose of it by recycling at Peerless Road drop-off depot. It’s free. Plant more native species in your garden. And even though the crocii and snowdrops are pretty to look at, they have no business being in that ecosystem. They too are non-native. If you use the trail consider volunteering in an invasive species work party. Contact Ladysmith Parks, Recreation & Culture 250-245-6424 and offer your support.
And use your common sense – it will go a long way towards safeguarding the trail for today and future generations.