Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve
This 45.6 acre/18.4 hectare property at 265 Blackburn Road surrounds about two-thirds of Blackburn Lake, along the southwest side. It is situated at the center of Salt Spring Island.
Ecology: Blackburn Lake — one of the island’s 7 freshwater lakes – is 3-4 hectares in size (similar to Ford Lake) and is critical to the health of the Cusheon Lake watershed. Over 75 percent of the water arriving to Cusheon Lake, which has been experiencing some water quality challenges, flows through Blackburn Lake. This property includes about half the shoreline of the lake, two streams, considerable wetlands, some tree cover on the edges, and numerous open meadows. The property is a remarkable haven for 15 Species At Risk including the: Band-tailed Pigeon, Barn Swallow, Common Nighthawk, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, , Olive-sided Flycatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Little Brown Myotis, Keen’s long- eared Myotis, Common Wood Nymph, Red-legged Frog, Pacific Sideband, Blue Dasher, Common Bladder Moss and Swamp Fingernail clam . The reserve also harbours many waterfowl and over 100 avian, mammal, amphibian, reptile, gastropod and invertebrate species. The property also features rare habitat for juvenile coho salmon and cutthroat trout.
Planting at Blackburn Lake. After reconstructing the landscape it is time to plant native species around the new wetland.
Wetlands Restoration. Salt Spring Island Conservancy Blackburn Lake wetlands restoration project. Blackburn Lake was the site of a former golf course and prior to that a farm.
September 11, 2014 – Conservancy Builds New Facility
Thanks to the generosity of the anonymous donor who has made this possible construction has begun!!!
Exciting progress –watch for regular updates as the multi-use facility grows. Although not exactly finalized the facility will include some public education and meeting space and a home for the Conservancy.
Conservancy volunteers will be needed for many aspects of the building construction including site clean-up, staining siding, landscaping, replanting native plants, removal of invasive plant species and final preparations for occupation. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact email@example.com.
September 2014 – Wetlands Restoration
First wetlands restoration begins. In early 2014 , Tom Biebighauser, a restoration expert who has built over 1600 wetlands throughout North America, SSIC staff and volunteers developed a plan for the entire reserve which identified potential wetland restoration projects designed to increase the diversity of the grassy areas where few native species are currently found. These restoration projects once completed will provide habitat for the native plants and animals which are already found on the reserve including the rare Northern Red-legged Frog and Little Brown Bat. Wetland restoration would also help filter water before it reaches the lake, allowing it to soak into the land and stopping the soil from being washed downstream.
The first site chosen used to be a wetland that was drained and filled probably during the creation of the golf course. With funding provided by six different agencies, the first stage of restoration work was completed. The new wetland was dug and the spider web of buried drain pipes was lifted out. The pool was shaped with gradually sloped edges to prevent erosion and create a natural looking depression. The wetland was covered with clay which was compacted to prevent the water from leaking out and all of the excavated topsoil was placed on top the clay to help native plants grow. Downed logs were placed in the wetland to provide hiding places for frogs and resting sites for dragonflies. A small snag was stood upright at the edge of the wetland to provide a perch for birds. Seeds from native sedges and rushes were collected from plants growing nearby and scattered over the surface followed by heavy layers of barley straw to stop the thistles and other weeds from invading the bare soil. Native shrubs and flowers will be planted once the rains moisten the soil.
February 2014 – University of Victoria Students Visit Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve
Read their article and see photos here.
March 2015 – The reserve grows again!
Through a special agreement with another neighbor, 7 acres were added to the nature reserve, resulting in a total of 45.6 acres. The new area includes lakeshore and the lake’s outgoing stream. The reserve now contains all the streams entering and leaving Blackburn Lake.
November 2014 – The Reserve Grows!
We are thrilled to announce the completion of a land donation which increases the size of the Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve from 32.6 acres to 38.4 acres. The land is a generous gift from an anonymous donor, made in remembrance of their deceased spouse. This lovely upland forest and wetland habitat is crucial habitat for the reserve’s thriving population of the Northern Red-Legged Frog, as well as important habitat for other species. What a wonderful turn of events!
September 2013 – Acquisition
After 14 months of intense effort, the Conservancy took title to the 32.6 acres at 265 Blackburn Road, encompassing about half the land around Blackburn Lake, a place critically important to the health of the Cusheon Lake watershed.
Over 400 community contributors and volunteers supported the purchase campaign. A major grant from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species At Risk was a big boost, as well as grants from the Salt Spring Island Foundation and the Islands Trust Fund, plus more than $350,000 in individual contributions and considerable support from the Conservancy’s annual budget and land acquisition fund.
What a phenomenal achievement that we collectively protected this key Salt Spring place for the long-term benefit of the island and community! It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, and it wouldn’t have happened without the enthusiastic support of so many individuals and organizations. It truly required a community effort to pull this off, and we appreciate everyone who pitched in.
Of course, this all depended on a willing, generous and patient landowner, and we are tremendously grateful to him as well. Over 400 community contributors and volunteers also supported the $1 million purchase campaign led by Conservancy Executive Director Christine Torgrimson. A major grant from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species At Risk was a big boost, as well as grants from the Salt Spring Island Foundation and the Islands Trust Fund, plus more than $350,000 in individual contributions.
The acquisition process included a complex mix of land negotiations, grant applications, mailing appeals, public presentations, special events, press releases, advertising, nature walks, species research, mapping and more.
All of this hard work was well worth it, as the land is literally the precious gateway to the Cusheon watershed. Its two streams and wetlands filter and protect the quality of almost all of the water arriving to Blackburn Lake, which then delivers about 75% of Cusheon Lake’s water. Given Cusheon’s recurring algal blooms and delicate health, careful stewardship of this particular place on this island is of great importance. The 2007 Cusheon Lake Watershed Management Plan makes this all very clear.
Ongoing stewardship is the beginning of the next stage of the Conservancy’s long-term responsibilities on the new nature reserve. We’ll soon erect signage, improve fencing and create a designated public walking trail on the land. Staff and consultants are now drafting a management and restoration plan for the riparian areas and wetlands and management of invasive species.
Restoration efforts will be implemented slowly and carefully, with good communication with neighbours, watershed organizations and the community, and in consultation with experienced restoration experts in the province. The restoration work will be focused on amplifying the watershed protection that the property provides as well as improving species’ habitat. Over a dozen different Species At Risk and over 90 diverse bird species have been found on the land.
The reserve also has other potential long-term uses, primarily related to nature education, and the Conservancy will begin considering those in 2014.
Farming and Golf Course:
From 1859 onwards, the property had been used for agriculture until the last 20 years when it was used as an organic golf course.