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Multi-year effort proposed to repair Victoria parks affected by camping; initial cost: $535,000

Victoria city staff are proposing an initial investment of $535,000 to remediate areas in four city parks — including Beacon Hill Park — that were affected by months of people camping.
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Bylaw officers walk through a homeless camp near the playing fields at Beacon Hill Park in April. When COVID-19 forced indoor shelter spaces to close or limit their capacity, the city allowed people without homes to camp in parks 24/7. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria city staff are proposing an initial investment of $535,000 to remediate areas in four city parks — including Beacon Hill Park — that were affected by months of people camping.

In a report going to councillors Thursday, staff say they have identified 144 sites in 10 parks with visible impacts, such as soil compaction and contamination, stress or death of ­vegetation, introduction of invasive species and degradation of habitat for insect, bird and animal species.

When COVID-19 forced indoor shelter spaces to close or limit their capacity, the city allowed people without homes to camp in parks 24/7. Hundreds of people moved indoors earlier this year to shelters or housing leased and purchased by the province.

Staff suggest including $535,000 in the draft 2022 financial plan to begin restoration in Beacon Hill Park, Cecelia Ravine Park, Topaz Park and Stadacona Park. That will go towards temporary staff, consulting services, materials and equipment and contingency. The total cost of remediation is not known.

Beacon Hill Park was most affected by sheltering, with 90 areas affected, the report says. Other parks affected by sheltering include Irving Park, Vic West Park, Gonzales Park, Hollywood Park, Oaklands Park and Regatta Point Park.

The report lays out a five-phase restoration process: debris removal and clean up, impact assessment, hazard removal, restoration of damage to soil, turf, plants and ecosystems, and monitoring to ensure impacted aread continue to thrive.

Since May 1, staff have completed the first three phases of most impacted manicured spaces, mainly turf, the report says. Remediation of manicured spaces is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Staff have also completed impact assessments in Topaz and Cecelia Ravine parks.

Restoring natural areas is “complex,” the report says, and staff have developed a multi-year program focused on natural areas, to begin next year. It involves removing invasive species that have been introduced and planting native species and other features that attract insects, birds, and animals back to the area.

The estimated four-year process will require development of a management plan for Beacon Hill and Stadacona parks and include consultation with the Songhees and Esquimalt nations for input, as well as the broader community. The plans will provide the city with a long-term vision for improving natural areas, and inventory sensitive ecosystems, species at risk and culturally significant areas.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com