Bear Mountain Resort takes a swing with eco-tours on golf carts

Bear Mountain Resort is giving nature lovers full use of its Valley Golf Course this winter for ecological tours.

The company said its self-guided tours on golf carts is a first for a Canadian golf club and a “key priority” for new owners Ecoasis Developments Inc., which acquired Bear Mountain last year.

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Bear Mountain is home to Canada’s first 36-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf layout. The 18-hole Mountain course remains open for golf through the winter while the Valley Course will be used exclusively for eco-tours.

The 102-acre course is home to giant Douglas fir and western red cedar stands, glacial rock formations, several species of birds, small animals and bats as well as salmon enhancement projects.

“This new eco-tour is a fabulous opportunity to invite people living in the area to come up and experience the beautiful, natural setting that distinguishes Bear Mountain from other residential resort communities on southern Vancouver Island,” Francis Parkinson, general manager at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa said in a statement.

Parkinson said the eco-tour program was launched as a test in December and the response was positive with many returning with family and friends. “Our mild West Coast climate creates a rare opportunity to highlight the important environmental values. Creating communities has an impact on the natural landscape. How this is done and how the interface is managed going forward at Bear Mountain is a key priority for the new owners,” he said.

Greens superintendent Darren Burns and his team have spent years championing the “environmental interface” between the golf courses and natural habitat.

The tour highlights some of the key features of his stewardship, including nesting trees and different plantings of grasses and brush piles that provide cover and habitat for birds and small animals.

People will see pileated woodpecker snags, “bat cave” boxes, and learn about local salmon enhancement initiatives at Osborne Pond and the fish ladder on fairway No. 15, which ground crews stock with juvenile coho salmon in co-operation with the Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association.

Tours run daily and can be booked at the golf shop or by calling 250-744-2327. The cost is $35, which includes rental of a golf cart for two people and a blanket. Partial proceeds from the tours will benefit the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association.

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