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Our Community: Land at Galiano's Cable Bay protected, Elk Lake swim helps hospital

Two conservancy associations have ­partnered to purchase 26.5 hectares of waterfront land on Galiano Island, adding to a network of connected conservation areas totalling more than 500 hectares that spans the width of the island.

The waterfront property was zoned for a six-lot residential subdivision, but the landowners wanted to see the area remain as forest and held off selling the property until funds could be raised to purchase it for conservation purposes.

The acquisition is the culmination of a multi-year partnership between the Galiano Conservancy Association, a community-based land trust and registered charity, and The Nature Trust of B.C., one of the ­province’s leading non-profit land-conservation organizations.

The parcel of land includes an ­ecologically diverse coastal Douglas fir ­forest and more than one kilometre of ­pristine rocky shoreline at Cable Bay. The bay is a haven for resident and migratory birds, intertidal life and marine mammals, with nutrient-rich waters serving as ­nurseries for young fish.

The property is part of the traditional and unceded territories of the Penelakut, Hwlitsum and other Hul’qumi’num-speaking peoples. Cable Bay has a long history of use and habitation by Coast Salish Peoples.

According to Florence James, a Coast Salish Elder and Hul’qumi’num language teacher from Penelakut Island, the area is traditionally known as Qw’xwulwis, the Hul’qumi’num word for the action of ­paddling.

Galiano is part of the Southern Gulf Islands archipelago and lies near the ­centre of both the Salish Sea and the coastal ­Douglas fir biogeoclimatic zone. Cable Bay and the network of protected areas it joins are a remnant of the zone.

The acquisition was made possible by the federal government through the ­Natural Heritage Conservation Program, Sitka Foundation, MapleCross, Collings Stevens Family Foundation and more than 150 ­individuals, including many Galiano residents.

The Cable Bay property is projected to formally open to the public this year, once a management plan and signage are in place.

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Elk Lake swim raises funds for hospital

A rehabilitation assistant at Saanich Peninsula Hospital’s long-term care unit plans to swim the length of Elk Lake to raise funds for the Peninsula Hospital and Healthcare Foundation on Monday.

Lucas Gentina has been working with the hospital’s long-term patients for about three years and has witnessed first-hand how COVID-19 has affected their spirits.

A swimmer his whole life — “I started after my father threw me into the pool one day” — the 24-year-old came up with a fun way to raise money and spirits for the hospital’s 150 residents.

“A little positivity goes a long way. I just want to help out my community and especially the elders of Saanich Peninsula Hospital,” said Gentina, who also loves surfing.

“I know the foundation’s donors care about our elders and want the best for them. Ideally, if we can raise money to help them in any way, that would mean the world to me. The funds raised would come back to the residents through special celebrations and special equipment. They have had an incredibly rough year. Anything helps.”

Gentina has been training for the swim since November and is confident of tackling the two-kilometre-long lake. He will wear a wetsuit and have a safety boat alongside him. The swim will start at Ski Beach and end at Eagle Beach (beside the rowing club).

Gentina plans to start at 10 a.m. and hopes to finish about 11:30 a.m.

You can donate to the fundraiser on the hospital foundation's website.

Camosun students organize clothing drive

Students in Camosun College’s criminal justice program capped off their semester by collecting a classroom-sized clothing donation for Our Place.

The students put up posters at the college’s Interurban and Lansdowne campuses and distributed flyers around neighbouring communities.

Second-year student Sean Eversfield said “basically everyone” in the second year of the Criminal Justice program was involved in the drive.

Emma Godard, also a second-year student, said the need for donations is growing due to the impact of the pandemic.

“There’s definitely a need for it — there’s definitely been an increased demand,” she said.

“On our flyer, there was a part where we specified men’s clothing because that’s what’s really needed — men’s clothing like jackets, sweaters and socks.”

Students hosted a sock drive earlier in the semester, and are planning a bottle drive. After having put volunteer work on hold for the last year, Eversfield and his classmates found the clothing drive to be a meaningful experience.

“The students who went to Our Place and the other shelters to distribute the clothing, they said it was a really positive experience, and it was eye-opening to speak with them and hear their stories,” Eversfield said.

“Our Place is one of the major ones because of the shelter, but we are involved with almost every criminal-justice-related or volunteer-related organization in Victoria.”

Community involvement is a mandatory part of the criminal justice program.

“It’s a requirement and also a really important part of the field that we’re going into in general,” said Eversfield. “Just being involved in the community.”

Grant deadline looming

Jan. 31 is the deadline for non-profit and community organizations to submit an application for the City of Victoria’s Strategic Plan Grant, for projects or programs that build community resilience and equity.

Last year’s grants, which totalled $470,000, supported 53 community organizations undertaking a range of projects. Examples include a community food-sharing program, Indigenous reconciliation circles, mental-health counselling for newcomers, a youth suicide-prevention program and housing support for women affected by domestic violence.

“Our community continues to be impacted by COVID-19,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “The city’s Strategic Plan Grants provide a way for council to support local groups in creating and enhancing resiliency and equity in Victoria neighbourhoods as we build back stronger from the pandemic.”

Projects and programs considered should support one or more of the city council’s eight objectives:

1. Good governance and civic engagement

2. Reconciliation and Indigenous relations

3. Affordable housing

4. Prosperity and economic inclusion

5. Health, well-being and a welcoming city

6. Climate leadership and environmental stewardship

7. Sustainable transportation

8. Strong, liveable neighbourhoods

Close to $500,000 in funding is available this year. Since it was established in 2015, the program has funded 339 projects, investing $3.5 million in the community.

For more information and to apply, go to