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Our Community: $1.4M grant helps preserve Highlands 'gem'

A tranquil lake described as “the gem of the Highlands” has finally received protection thanks to a $1.4-million provincial grant and tireless work by a group of partners.
Earsman Creek, part of the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary.

A tranquil lake described as “the gem of the Highlands” has finally received protection thanks to a $1.4-million provincial grant and tireless work by a group of partners.

The Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary is a 17-hectare property containing wetlands, a private lake and many threatened plant communities of the coastal Douglas fir zone. It is also part of the Millstream watershed, which flows through four regional communities.

The British Columbia government recently announced $1.4 million in grants to protect the sanctuary’s sensitive ecosystems for future generations.

“The Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary provides our community a chance to connect to nature and deepen our understanding of B.C.’s unique ecology,” said Premier John Horgan, the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. “It is also an opportunity to strengthen our understanding of Indigenous knowledge and culture through a partnership with the Tsartlip First Nation.”

The sanctuary features a unique partnership between the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society, the Tsartlip First Nation, the Government of B.C. and the support of numerous local organizations and individuals.

The society will be collaborating with the Tsartlip First Nation to determine how the management of Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary and Nature House while promoting conservation, respect for nature and cultural values.

In future, covenants will be placed to protect the property as a conservation area, including rezoning from residential property to a nature sanctuary.

For more information, go to

Oaklands neighbours to create butterfly corridor

Eight neighbours on Lang Street, in the Oaklands area of Victoria, were recently awarded a $500 grant to create BLOOM (Biodiverse Lang Street On Oaklands Map), Victoria’s first butterfly corridor.

Homeowners in the 1400-block of the street plan to create a series of all-native plant gardens designed to attract pollinators — butterflies, bees and flies — to the neighbourhood.

The neighbourhood place-making project will create boulevard gardens that act as a corridor for native pollinators as they go through the city.

Only native plants will be used because, over the centuries, native pollinators have developed particular relationships with specific flowers or shrubs.

The group has also applied for a second grant, of $200, from the Native Plant Study Group to help proceed with the project.

Each garden is going to be unique, with a shade garden, an evergreen garden, a food-based garden and other distinct themes.

The gardens reflect the wishes of the homeowner and the layout of the boulevard. The mosaic of gardens will enable a wide variety of plants to be grown, with each geared toward attracting biodiverse pollinators.

The project will tie in with the Island Pollinator Initiative and Pollinator Partnership Canada, both of whom promotes good gardening practices and awareness of local pollinators.

The plan is to start planting the beds in the fall.

Capital region marks 256 little libraries

One of the latest Little Free Libraries installed in the CRD has books and an extra-welcome amenity — free dog-cleanup bags.

The orange book box with four shelves, painted by Rosemary McAllister, can be seen at the corner of Prior Street and Topaz Avenue.

Little free libraries operate on the “leave a book, take a book” principle. In total, Victoria has 256 cheery little boxes, making Victoria the city with the highest density of Little Free Libraries in Canada.

“The magic of little free libraries is that they don’t just help share books between neighbours, they add whimsy to the urban landscape, create places for people to meet and ultimately help build community,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who leads the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network’s Pocket Places Project.

The project tops up the collections of libraries with more than 11,000 books. It has also helped install dozens of libraries around the city.

For more information, and a map of local Little Free Libraries, go to projects/little-free-libraries.

Film honours resilience of South African women

See a movie about resilience — and chat with women featured in the film — at The Thinking Garden, Aug. 29 at the Eric Martin Pavilion Theatre.

This is a film about three generations of older women in a South African village who came together in the dying days of apartheid to create a community garden.

In the midst of severe drought and political turmoil, older women with limited access to land and little political voice joined together, beyond the household, beyond their kin, to make something new.

Mphephu, Josephine and Basani will be at the screening and take questions and answers after the show.

The film is sponsored by the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa.

Admission by donation. The 35-minute film starts at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Eric Martin Pavilion Theatre, Fort and Trent streets.

For more information, go to

Conservatory welcomes all for open house

The Victoria Conservatory of Music is inviting the whole community to join in musical fun at its annual Open House, Sept. 7 at the conservatory.

“We want everyone to come and join us in celebrating the incredible power of music,” said Jane Butler McGregor, CEO of the conservatory. “We’re very excited to share the excellence the conservatory offers to everyone in the community of every age and every ability. There are so many incredible programs available — from classical to contemporary to music technology to music therapy. We want to share them all.”

You will have the opportunity to tour the school and view the performance halls, practice rooms and recently moved library featuring more than 6,000 music sheets and books.

Guests can collect passport stamps to win free lessons and tickets to upcoming concerts.

Family fun includes instrument petting zoos for visitors of all ages and free mini classes with the Early Childhood Music department for young visitors up to six years of age from 10 a.m. to noon.

Guests are also invited to experience the new Music Technology Lab.

There will be ongoing live performances on the Alix Goolden Hall stage by faculty and students on a range of instruments in both classical and contemporary genres, starting at 10:30 a.m.

The event is free to attend. It runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, 900 Johnson St.

For more information, go to

Victoria seeks artists for community projects

The City of Victoria is issuing a call to artists to apply to a new mural and community-art roster.

The city is establishing a roster of pre-qualified, local artists to be available for mural and community art opportunities in 2020.

The roster will help connect artists with local businesses and organizations looking to enhance their exterior walls with a mural.

It will also assist the city in connecting a neighbourhood association or school with an artist to co-ordinate a community art project, such as a place-making art piece, a community mosaic or a neighbourhood signage project.

The initiative coincides with the launch of the city’s new Mural Toolkit, a helpful step-by-step guide for artists and business owners who are interested in the mural-making process in Victoria. Both are part of the city’s Create Victoria Arts and Culture Master Plan.

Emerging and established artists in the capital region, including the Gulf Islands, are invited to submit an application. Submissions to the roster will be assessed on an artist’s experience in creating and collaborating with the community on murals or community art projects, as well as an artist’s visual storytelling style.

A selection panel will consist of local arts professionals comprised of artists, curators, administrators and city staff.

The deadline for applications is 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 30. Applications and supporting images must be submitted by email to Hard copies will not be accepted. Selected artists will be notified in March 2020.

For submission guidelines and more information, go to

Event aims to raise awareness of overdoses

The South Island Community Overdose Response Network is marking International Overdose Awareness Day with an event Saturday in Centennial Square.

International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held every year to raise awareness of overdose and to reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.

It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

There will be naloxone training, information booths, a drug-testing station, a memorial activity and live bands.

The event is free to attend. It runs 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 31 in Centennial Square. A Candlelight Vigil of Remembrance is also planned on the same day at 7 p.m. at St. John the Divine Anglican Church, 1611 Quadra St.

If you are interested in volunteering for this event, please email

For more information, go to Facebook.

Great Canadian Sing Sept. 8 at the Royal

The Great Canadian Sing will play its Gala launch concert Sept. 8 at the Royal Theatre.

There are Big Sings all around the world, but this will be its first concert in Canada, debuting in Victoria and eventually across Canada.

The concert will be a combination of artist-led performances and audience participation featuring YouTube sensations Roy and Rosemary, Tenore and some of the city’s female vocalists: Stephanie Greaves, Diane Pancel and Charlotte Martin.

Island residents have also voted online for their favourite songs of inspiration, with the top 10 winners (plus many more) performed at the concert.

Acts will be accompanied by The Great Canadian Sing orchestra, under the musical direction of Karel Roessingh.

Tickets are $37.50. The event starts at 3 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.

For more information, go to