PHOTOS: Students dig Greater Victoria group one bed closer to 1,000 gardens

Stormwater pools in Monterey school parking lots, then overflow into recently dug trenches. The creek trickled through a rapidly muddy field where students dug holes for new plants. The design and plant selection of this garden is a bit different from the average school landscape, with a specific goal.

“The plants we plant in the soil will help filter the water,” explains student Luc Hodkinson. Collecting water in a rain garden and spreading it through the soil means it has days, weeks and months to feed the creek with clean water at a moderate rate.

The eighth graders added that the plants also provided a cooling effect to the area. Teacher Josh Elsdon explained that the class is completing assignments that started about three years ago.

In the spring of 2020, a group of students in grades 6, 7 and 8 took mixed classes in response to the pandemic, Elsden said. At the time, he worked with groups including Friends of Bowker Creek’s Gerald Harris and Christina Johnson-Dean on habitat restoration on Mount Anderson. The children learned about environmental initiatives in the community.

Specifically, the rain garden on Monterey Avenue, adjacent to the recreation center and library.

“That’s what inspired us to start talking about having it in Monterey. We reached out to the ground department, the municipality, and the CRD, and it was cool to see all these different cogs in a big machine working together,” Elsdon said. Most of the group that sparked the idea are now in Year 11, and this year members of Year 8 planted a garden on 4th November.

“It’s very comforting to see it at this stage now,” Elsden said.

This is one of two garden projects led by Bowker Creek and Friends of Peninsula Creek and Shoreline, the other being planted at Campus View Elementary a few days ago. The Saanich School is adjacent to the headwaters of Bowker Creek, starting near UVic’s College Club.

Harris hopes the two schools are just the beginning, as Friends of Bowker Creek begins its 1,000 rain garden project to restore waterways by draining water into the ground instead of storm drains.

“A lot of the restoration of Bowker Creek is happening not on the creek, but across the valley of Bowker Creek, because the stormwater drainage system now dumps water into storm drains and sewers, and then directly into the creek. It’s on the streets and Yards carry all kinds of toxins,” Harris said.

Gardens like the new one in Monterey direct water to the soil and roots, where bacteria can break down toxins, and the water flows slowly into natural waterways.

It’s Bowker in Campus View and McNeill Bay in Monterey, explains Kyle Armstrong, restoration coordinator for Peninsula Streams and Shorelines, which funds education and plants through the Pacific Salmon Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment and the BC Nature Trust.

“We want to get into other communities and work with other governing groups, other classes, and really expand the scope of the program through the Capital Region,” Armstrong said.

If you are interested, you can go and see peninsula streams.ca and click on the Volunteer tab or contact a local management group such as Friends of the Bowker Creek Society at bowkercreek.org.

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