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Brooks Point Regional Park: To Speak for the Snakes

Historical photo of Gowlland Point (Davy Rippner)

The campaign to protect Brooks Point succeeded because of a combination of a generous land donation by the Brooks family, tireless fundraising efforts led by volunteers with Friends of Brooks Point and supported by the Pender Conservancy, a huge response by local donors, contributions by the CRD, and a federal government grant for the protection of species at risk.

The snake

Sharp-tailed snake at Gowlland Point (Paul Petrie)

This tiny sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis) was discovered near the Garry oaks by Gowlland Point during the fundraising campaign, and immediately raised the stakes of protecting this land. As a declining and threatened species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), this elusive snake opened the door to species-at-risk habitat protection funds that helped complete fundraising and saw the rare and sensitive coastal ecosystems of Brooks and Gowlland Point permanently protected.

Current state of meadow and bluffs at Gowlland Point (Jan 2022; Dan Baxter)

In the decade following the completion of this land protection campaign, increasing human traffic has caused the degradation of the sensitive coastal bluff and meadow ecosystems and shallow coastal soils. The Brooks Point Management Plan, developed with the collaboration of local experts, the Pender Islands Conservancy, conservation covenant holders, the Brooks family, Friends of Brooks Point, other representatives of the Pender Island community, and the CRD, states:

“In areas where damage has already occurred, restoration of the natural systems may be warranted. The Environmental Protection Zone applies to the majority of the park area due to the presence of so many sensitive ecosystems and species. This zone is approximately 4.43 hectares, or 72% of the park area, and occupies the middle and southern portions of the park, including Brooks Point, Gowlland Point, the connecting shoreline, and the sharp-tailed snake habitat identified in the 2014 baseline report.”

Sharp-tailed snakes were identified in the forested area at Gowlland Point; however, little is known about their movements or range. Recent evidence from tracking studies on Vancouver Island have shown that individuals can move up to 80 m during their active seasons and 150 m between years (C. Engelstoft, pers. comm.); hence the “shortcut” trail that has developed between the meadow and forest areas (which are both part of the Environmental Protection Zone of the Management Plan) effectively bisects what may be a critical corridor for snakes to move between these habitats. Maintaining connected habitats for this threatened species is an essential part of our responsibility as land stewards, and the small section of fencing recently installed at each end of that bisecting trail (along with signage that will be installed shortly) is intended as a gentle reminder to visitors of the importance of this area for the species we share the land with. The unofficial “shortcut”—while perhaps more convenient for human visitors—is actually critical to restore for ecosystem integrity: Fencing will keep visitors on the official trail, allow for regrowth of the chocolate lily and camas meadow, and provide continuity between the meadow and forest habitats, allowing for unimpeded movement of snakes and other animals between these areas.

The Pender Islands Conservancy entered into a contribution agreement with the federal government when we received the species-at-risk grant funding that allowed Brooks Point to be protected. This agreement requires that sharp-tailed snake habitat be protected and restored as necessary.

The fence

Fencing installed to allow for chocolate lily and camas meadow regrowth (Erin O'Brien)

Fencing installed to allow meadow regeneration and to restore connectivity between forest and meadow habitats (Erin O'Brien)

As a CRD Regional Park, infrastructure at Brooks Point must follow standard CRD requirements. For restoration area fencing, this means the use of split-rail fence. The recent installation at Gowlland Point used “Redi-Rod” thread rod rather than rebar anchoring: due to the archaeological significance of the site, and the shallow and sensitive coastal bluff soils, this eliminates the need for ground disturbance, with concrete footings used to secure the rods in place. Beautiful signs have been produced by the CRD and will soon be installed which highlight the sensitive species the fencing is protecting. Expect to see ongoing habitat restoration and protection measures taking place elsewhere in the Environmental Protection Zone; these measures will be determined collaboratively between CRD and Conservancy ecologists, and informed and approved by local experts, covenant holders and advisory groups.

Brooks Point (Davy Rippner)

We ask that when you visit this place, you do so with a sense of gratitude: gratitude to the W̱SÁNEĆ people who were respectful stewards of this land for millennia, and who we look to for guidance with our restoration and stewardship plans to heal the land moving forward; gratitude for the hundreds of S,DÁYES residents who contributed to the success of our land protection campaign that allowed this special place and its sensitive ecosystems and species to be protected in perpetuity; and gratitude to Allan Brooks and his family's vision for donating a large piece of the land that ensured the entire place could be maintained as a contiguous protected area.

Sun setting at Brooks Point (Davy Rippner)

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