Town staff removed a number of native plants from Saywell Park after they were planted by volunteers as part of a riparian restoration project.

Saywell restoration project halted due to ‘miscommunication’

An ambitious project in June 2013 saw the restoration of the shoreline at Saywell Park.

An ambitious project in June 2013 saw the restoration of the shoreline at Saywell Park. Carried out as a joint project and led by the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, the project saw a group of volunteers remove a number of Himalayan blackberry bushes, an invasive species, and replace them with over 1000 native plants, including dogwood and willow. Though the groups involved hoped that the reintroduction of these native plant species would restore the area to a healthy state, they saw some of their hard work come undone this past June.

Due to what Stewardship Society spokesperson Diana Gunderson referred to as “miscommunication,” a large number of native plants were removed from Saywell Park by Town of Lake Cowichan staff. According to Gunderson, a stand-in crew supervisor ordered the plants to be removed, unaware that they were part of a restoration project.

The project was announced to be completed in May 2014, with the planting in Saywell Park being carried out by a group of volunteers from the Stewardship Society and Lake Cowichan School. Along with the volunteer hours put into the project, a total amount of $25,000 was provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Cowichan Watershed Board, the Haig-Brown Fly Fishing Association, Lake Cowichan School and the Town of Lake Cowichan itself.

Though it’s still unknown what action will be taken to correct the damage done to restoration project, Gunderson is taking a proactive approach.

“One of the things on my agenda is to meet up with the crew at Saywell Park to make a new plan [for the restoration project] and possibly replace some of the plants that were removed,” she said.

She also said that Mayor Ross Forrest was also upset about the removal of the plants when the Stewardship Society sat down with him recently, and that he agreed it was important to maintain what is left and replace what was removed.

Mayor Forrest was unavailable for comment.