New Brighton Park Restoration Project Summation
Report by Nigel Peck
This year Nature Vancouver (NV) became involved in an exciting new conservation project at New Brighton Park in Vancouver’s northeast corner, just near the Iron Workers’ Second Narrows Bridge. In the area just to the west of the off-leash dog area, landfill dug from the Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project was deposited in 2016 and 2017 to create a hillock. Sadly, planted native coastal shrubs did not survive the initial years, leaving the area to be populated by invasive Scotch Broom, Himalayan Blackberry, Bull Thistle and later Reed Canary grass.
The rapid growth and spread of Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberry was of particular concern with the entire hillock of the Park and the vegetated strip of Port of Vancouver land between the Park and Port of Vancouver tractor fence becoming increasingly infested. Nature Vancouver approached the Vancouver Parks Board in February of 2021 to see if we could assist in any Vancouver Park related restoration projects and met with the Environmental Stewardship Coordinator, Krista Voth, at the site in December of 2021 and agreed to become a part of the restoration project of the hillock.
Initially the Vancouver Parks Board envisaged a contractor to complete the vast majority of the work and NV assisting in a minor way but with the enthusiasm and effectiveness of NV volunteers, Nature Vancouver has ended up completing all the invasive plant removal and all the native plantings. The project began on January 24th with three NV volunteers using an ‘Extractigator’ to pull out the first of a hundred or so Scotch Broom plants from the hillock. Himalayan Blackberry was the next invasive to be focussed on with major infestations along the Park/Port fence and down closer to the water being removed.
Nature Vancouver’s status as an independent society was particularly beneficial when it was realized that all the park’s invasive species could be cleared but the area would be immediately reseeded by the same invasive species which were very densely growing on Port of Vancouver property just metres away and separated by only by a chain link fence.
Recognizing this problem, we contacted the Port and were able to meet with the Port of Vancouver Manager of Infrastructure Habitat Development, Charlotte Olson at the site in February to survey the amount of invasive broom and blackberry. Charlotte then applied for special permit to allow Nature Vancouver volunteers to enter Port property to continue our removal efforts on the Port side.
One unexpected by product of the collaboration occurred when Charlotte suggested that NV was benefitting the Port by removing the invasive plants and that we should bill them for work. This in turn resulted in the generous payment of $5000 to Nature Vancouver which has been used to purchase equipment to augment tools loaned by the Vancouver Parks Board and to add to the Nature Vancouver conservation fund.
By March 12th nine separate work parties had removed essentially all of the broom in the Park as well as the major Park side blackberry infestations on the hillock. Two weeks later volunteers removed the final broom and blackberry infestations which remained on the Port vegetated strip.
The successful invasive species removal now allowed us to begin the next phase of planting native pollinators. Planting began at the next work party on March 26th with the planting of thirty prickly wild roses, Nootka roses and Wood’s roses in the Park along the western slope of the hillock next to the Park/Port fence.
Saturday, April 2nd saw the planting of about 250 Woolly Sunflowers plugs scattered on the east side of the hillock looking over the walkway and off-leash dog area. The same day volunteers also planted 18 native Nootka roses as well as about 100 Douglas Asters and Goldenrod native pollinator plugs on the Port vegetated strip.
The last major planting effort occurred Saturday, April 9th with the planting of 250 Nodding Onion and 200 Pearly Everlastings plugs, again, scattered around the Park hillock eastern slope. That day also saw an out of the ordinary, old-fashion invasive debris removal effort which Nature Vancouver was able to assist with.
Vancouver Parks has stopped by several times over the project to remove huge piles of debris which NV has generated. With the bulk of debris removed, one more effort was made by organizers Nigel Peck and Susan Garber on Good Friday to rake up the remainder of the debris and plant ten more shrubs and fifty Nodding Onions and Pearly Everlastings in that last space.
On Saturday, May 14th New Brighton weed pull was led by Alix Noble and Greg leach. It was a resounding success with fourteen people helping to pull piles of bull thistle from the ‘restoration hillock’, who also enjoyed home backing and cinnamon buns by Alix! The group began by inspecting the different areas and decided to focus on thistles and leave the blackberry for the next work party on May 28th.
With the planting of fifty shrubs and roses as well as a thousand native flowering pollinator perennials we are hopeful that the New Brighton hillock will show a new face of yellow, pink and white flowers attracting butterflies, bees and birds throughout the summer. It is not a guaranteed outcome though as some of the transplants looked a bit ‘hard done by’ and the soil they were planted in was pretty poor quality being fill from the previous industrial site on the east side of the park. We will wait with anticipation as to how the transplants develop.
We hope you will visit the area over the summer to see if the native planting ‘takes’ and to see if the new flowers attract increased types and numbers of pollinators. For those preferring not to pay close botanical or entomological attention, perhaps you can just enjoy the hopefully enhanced floral display.
The hands-on restoration aspect of the project will move on to a new phase with this spring’s invasive species removal and native flowering perennials and shrubs planted. Our focus for the summer will be to continue with ‘maintenance’ level removal of new blackberry, broom, and thistle seedling removal on a regular basis.
Then with the fall and end of bird nesting season, more ambitious blackberry removal and planting of native coastal shrubs will start up again closer to the water.