It all began in October 2014, when West Vancouver District planned its fall nature workshops. The theme, we decided, should be invasive plant species, because Lighthouse Park, our beautiful old growth forest park in West Vancouver, has a problem with many invaders. We conduct workshops each spring and fall in the Park, asking keen university students to do a presentation on our chosen topic. This time, we asked the Parks Department if they would help us out. Tiffany Bentley, newly appointed community liaison, planned a wonderful presentation and an excellent wide game, and each group of girls pulled ivy with a vengeance.
Imagine our surprise when we learned through Tiffany that Girl Guides had a new Alien Invaders Challenge! How come our Parks Department knew before we did! It turned out that Tiffany had approached the Invasive Species Council of BC for pamphlets and learned of the cooperation between our Provincial Program Committee and the ISCBC. This was getting better yet – the girls would be well on their way to completing an excellent Challenge!
Then tragedy struck, as one of our Brownies, seven-year-old Erin Moore, who loved the Park and our workshops, was killed by a landslide in Lions Bay, just before Christmas. We were devastated by the loss of this fun-loving, lively child, and our District determined to do something to celebrate her young life and the lessons she had taught us – to live in the moment, to strive until you succeed, to wear red shoes and purple shorts in winter.
As we wondered in January how to honour her, the notice came from National about tree planting grants from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. We decided to apply for the largest possible grant as a District and to plan a restoration project in the park Erin loved. First we would clear away even more ivy, and then restore an unofficial trail to its former beauty by replanting it. We approached the Parks Department, and received their blessing for our chosen location. Lighthouse Park is the only remnant of the old growth Coastal Douglas-Fir ecosystem remaining in the Lower Mainland, and our Parks Department is keen to restore degraded areas and return them to their natural state.
Members of the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society were enthusiastic supporters of our plan, and helped us measure the trail and create a list of trees, shrubs, ferns and herbaceous plants suitable for this shady spot. The Parks team offered support as well. And soon a grant of $2,500 was received from the TD FOF! We also got permission to extend the project to the end of October so that our new plants could take advantage of the fall rains. It is not easy to water new growth in a huge forest! Thank goodness we did ask for that extension, because this summer’s drought might have killed everything.
At the end of September, 100 girls (Sparks to Rangers) spent their meeting time in the Park, clearing large patches of ivy – 36 huge garbage bags-full. They went at it with a will and so much energy!
The Parks Department came through magnificently, ordering the plants and soil for us at wholesale prices and delivering everything to the Park. They put up signs and snow fencing to keep the dogs off.
In October we held three planting sessions. Every unit in the District came, moved yards of smelly, rich soil, learned how to plant properly, and then turned the degraded trail into a green oasis – Erin’s Grove. The girls worked hard and cooperated well. Guides worked with each other, Rangers helped the Sparks and Pathfinders teamed up with Brownies. They raked and shoveled the soil, and planted well over 300 items. They tidied up, carried all the tools and plant pots back to the car park, happy and grubby and grinning with the success of it all. We played another invasive species game and learned what belongs as well as what doesn’t.
Erin’s parents helped at two of the plantings, along with her brother Cam. Erin’s dad talked to the girls, telling them what he had learned from his daughter’s short life and asking them to strive always to do their best, to live in the moment, to enjoy life to the fullest. He and Erin’s mother were so touched by this memorial to their daughter and will visit it often. We will also visit, before each workshop, to watch over the plants as they grow, and to remember Erin.
We are so grateful to the TD FOF, the Parks Department and the LPPS volunteers who have given us the chance to create Erin’s Grove, a beautiful space to remember our sister Brownie.
Daphne Hales is a Trefoil member in West Vancouver and the chair of the Phyl Munday Nature House committee.