Future of Island View Beach explored as CRD considers management plan

Sheila Stenzel and Jane Wynne were on a mission Wednesday at Island View Beach, hiking the waterfront to chart out activities for teachers.

The pair were particularly interested in the park’s geological features — including its cliffs and a “drowned forest” beneath the sand and mud, said Wynne, a geologist.

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But those are just a few of the many special aspects of 52-hectare Island View Beach Regional Park, which is under close observation as a new management plan is prepared. Everything from dogs to dunes will be up for discussion as the future of Island View is charted in the coming months.

The current park-management plan has been in place since 1989, and has been considered for renewal for the past two years.

The new plan, to be completed in 2014, will focus on four priority areas: rules for dogs, restoration of the coastal sand dune ecosystem, the campground and land administration, as the Capital Regional District works with Central Saanich on administration of land the municipality owns within or adjacent to the park.

Island View Beach, with 1.3 kilometres of sandy coastline, attracts more than 325,000 visitors each year, making it one of the region’s most popular parks.

“There’s a lot of public interest in it,” said Susan Brice, who chairs the CRD regional parks committee. She said the park is “an amazing gem” that provides a getaway close to the city.

“It’s easy for people to get to, and yet when you’re there, you could be far, far away.”

The CRD-operated campground has 18 beachfront sites for recreational vehicles, along with five tent-trailer sites and 24 tent sites in the trees.

Comments that come in about the park make it clear people love it the way it is, Brice said, and those working on the management plan are keeping that in mind.

“We want to make sure that anything we do in terms of planning is a long-term investment and that we don’t risk any of the ecological features.”

Dogs are a common sight at Island View, and discussions will include any issues related to their presence.

“That will be one of the things we’ll be asking very specifically about,” Brice said.

“Certainly, this is one of the places where people do love to run their dogs, and, generally speaking, I think most people handle it quite responsibly.”

Under current rules, dogs must be leashed in the campground, and in beach and picnic areas from June 1-Sept. 15.

The plan will also address restoration of the sand dune ecosystem, one of eight rare ecological communities in and around the park.

More than 100 species of birds frequent the park. Five local species — including two moths and the contorted pod evening primrose — are listed under the federal Species at Risk Act.

A draft plan has been prepared and public input is being sought, beginning Saturday with a guided public tour of the park from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Anyone interested in attending is asked to call 250-360-3338 or email amarchi@crd.bc.ca to reserve a spot.

A public-engagement session is scheduled for Sept. 26 at the Tsawout First Nation gymnasium, 7728 Tetayut Rd.

Online feedback can be given until Oct. 4 at crd.bc.ca/parks.

An interim plan could be ready for consideration by the CRD board in December.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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