HAT aiming to raise $1M in 100 days for a new regional park

Greater Victorians have 100 days to raise $1 million to purchase about 49 acres of urban forest for a new park, with a commitment by the seller to match the first $200,000.

Habitat Acquisition Trust has teamed up with the Capital Regional District to purchase the Saanich property, located near Prospect Lake, unofficially known as the Mountain Road forest.

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The family that owns the property has allowed community access to it for the past 50 years. They have decided to sell but have given HAT the opportunity to purchase the property so it can be protected from development.

The CRD has pledged $2 million toward the $3.4-million purchase price, and more than 200 individuals have donated since the fundraising campaign began in December.

Habitat Acquisition Trust is aiming to raise the remaining $1 million needed by April 22 — Earth Day — to complete the purchase.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase a significant coastal fir forest and protect it into perpetuity,” said Katie Blake, executive director of Habitat Acquisition Trust. “It is hard to not feel your soul fill up a little bit when you visit the property.”

She said that the property ­features a “spectacular ­example” of mature second-growth coastal Douglas fir ­forest. It is an important part of the coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, one of the rarest forest types in ­British Columbia and the smallest in ­distribution. Close to 95 per cent of its ­original range has been lost to logging and development.

The property also contains a Garry oak meadow and stands of arbutus trees. Key wildlife ­species include the western screech owl and common ­nighthawk.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said the pandemic has highlighted how valuable green spaces are to residents.

“We have a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the CRD, with HAT and with our local residents to protect an additional 20 hectares of prime urban forest,” he said.

He still recalls walking the property’s trails when he first moved to the area years ago.

To jump-start the fundraising campaign, the family selling the property made a commitment to match the first $200,000 in private donations.

For every donation of at least $100, HAT will issue a symbolic deed certificate to commemorate the donor’s participation in the project, Blake said. All ­donations are tax-deductible.

Habitat Acquisition Trust is a local land trust and registered charity that acquires titles and covenants of land to preserve it for future generations.

For more information, go to mountainforestroad.ca.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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