Jim Senka, resident of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, fellow residents and volunteers helped plant native plants on the complex grounds Nov. 20. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Jim Senka, resident of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, fellow residents and volunteers helped plant native plants on the complex grounds Nov. 20. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Harewood residents and volunteers work on habitat restoration

Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community residents and others combat invasive plants on Seventh Street

Harewood residents and other volunteers brought out their shovels in order to restore a patch of environmentally sensitive green space this weekend.

Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community was built on farmland in 2009, with green space preserved. Jim Senka, a resident and event organizer, said the grounds had been overrun by brambles that were removed, and volunteers gathered for planting on Saturday, Nov. 20.

“A lot of this land is still wild … but the blackberries have taken over and so we want to restore it to more natural habitat, which is a home for all the critters, right from the smallest insects to larger animals, like deer and eagles and everything else,” said Senka.

He said the Public Conservation Assistance Fund provided a $2,500 grant to purchase native plants, and about a dozen volunteers, with direction from a botanist, worked on the planting on Saturday.

Sneezeweed, skunk cabbage, Douglas aster, Indian plum, Douglas maple, dogwood and a natural berry patch, with salmonberries and strawberries, were among the 200 items being planted, according to Senka. A deer fence will also be set up until the plants are established. Having plants that are indigenous to the area is important, he said.

“A lot of us feel a responsibility to the planet to look after other living beings,” Senka said. “So if we get invasive species … never mind bugs or animals, even other plants can’t grow when invasive species come in, so by removing the blackberry and planting the native species, we’re returning the piece of land to what it was before we came here and destroyed it, if I can be blunt.”

With their thorns, blackberry bushes can be hard to remove and Senka said it has taken some time to clear the land.

“This area is roughly one acre and we’ve been working at it since [fall 2020], a few hours every week, and I estimate we’ve taken 500-600 pounds of blackberry knuckles out, so we got most of them and we’ll just continue on,” said Senka. “If they poke out, we’ll get at them right away. We’re confident that we’ll get them.”

The day’s work was a culmination of all the preparation and plant selection, although it maintenance work will continue after, said Senka.

He said Nanaimo and Area Land Trust were among the groups that assisted with the project.

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