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Vancouver Island's first eagle sanctuary to go ahead after funds raised

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Eagles in the thousands migrate from as far away as Alaska to join resident and nesting eagles to feast on a diverse array of food sources in the French Creek estuary and the nearby Salish Sea. Melanie Leeson Photography

A crowdfunding campaign to purchase land for the creation of Vancouver Island’s first eagle sanctuary crossed the finish line on Wednesday.

The B.C. Parks Foundation had spearheaded the campaign that successfully raised $5.18 million to purchase 18 acres of undeveloped, mainly forested piece of property at French Creek, between Qualicum Beach and Parksville.

“This is a fantastic story,” said Andy Day, CEO of the B.C. Parks Foundation. “There has been an incredible outpouring of goodwill in the community, making the longstanding dream of an eagle sanctuary come true. A lot of people feel like they are soaring with the eagles right now.”

The foundation — the official charitable partner of B.C. Parks — had partnered with the Regional District of Nanaimo, Save Estuary Land Society, Friends of French Creek Conservation Society and Qualicum and Snaw-Naw-As First Nations on the effort.

The land, located in the French Creek estuary, will join five acres of existing parks land already managed by the Regional District of Nanaimo, creating a 23-acre nature reserve.

The property hosts bald eagles that come by the thousands from as far away as Alaska to join resident and nesting eagles to feast in the Salish Sea.

The Regional District of Nanaimo will be a co-owner of the property with the B.C. Parks Foundation, and will manage the lands as a nature preserve through a 99-year renewable lease agreement with the foundation.

The lease provides for the new parkland to be managed in a manner that will ensure the protection, preservation, and conservation of the natural state of the land for ecological, environmental and aesthetic reasons.

The land will remain out of bounds to visitors for the coming months, as restoration and planning begin.

While there were large donors, including the landowners themselves, who agreed to gift $3.28 million in land value, more than $500,000 came from individuals, the foundation said.

“It was thousands of people like you and me, who want to keep B.C. beautiful,” said Day, who noted a few donated in honour of loved ones who had died.

“That’s the beauty in this – many people being moved in some way to do what they could, in a spirit of gratitude and celebration, and all of that adding up to make something wonderful and lasting happen.”

parrais@timescolonist.com