Gerald Island Stewards

Located approximately 1 km north of Schooner Cove lies a little-known provincial park. Located in the rare coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone in the southern Salish Sea, the island is home to various bird and marine species from Bald Eagles to California sea lions. The 12-hectare island officially gained park status in 2013.


  The island overgrown, in parts, with thick ivy plus some blackberry vines and broom, needed care. A squatter or settler likely introduced the ivy, decades ago. The remnants of two homes are still visible on Gerald giving credence to this theory. English ivy is commonly planted to provide quick cover to walls and buildings or used as a ground cover. Unfortunately, this invasive species smothers indigenous plants through a dense monoculture groundcover. This was the problem on Gerald.

  The BC Marine Trails steward team planned to cross from Schooner Cove on a Thursday, but a strong wind with gusts reaching 47 knots prevented the crossing. A day later, the team paddled in less than an hour to Gerald Island, pitching tents near the high tide mark. Originally, ten people planned on the trip, but poor weather diminished the team to seven. Two people, Nick and Darlene, arrived by powerboat with the ivy-removal tools, tote bags, and other heavy equipment, while the rest enjoyed a relatively mild paddle by kayak.

  The work was a little harder than expected. Our stewards are often picking up debris and hauling tote bags along a sandy beach to be picked up by skiff or even helicopter. Ivy removal involved digging or pickaxing out the roots of the plant, cutting vines from trees, and stacking large amounts on the beach. In the photo you can see the rolled ivy.

rollingthemat 900Rolling Mat - photo by Stephanie Meinke

  The group spent part of their time under tarps, waiting out the rain. It seems the camaraderie of working side by side, evening chats and the satisfaction of helping out the BC Marine Trails in a cleanup adds up to a great time and outweighs the discomfort of a little rain and wind.

  On Sunday morning, tote bags of Blackberry bushes, invasive Broom and a portion of the ivy were transported along with some Stryrofoam, aluminum (part of a boat), wood, and other debris to Schooner Cove. Because of the volume of the ivy, part of it was piled to dry and compress. We are still deciding on how to remove the piles and will return in the fall.

  Well, I was on the Vancouver Island end driving the truck. Stephan and I met Hannah, Rita, and Nick at the marina. We loaded a 16-foot Budget truck and drove the debris to the Church Road landfill. The fee was generously waived by the Regional District of Nanaimo.

  In following cleanups and years, we will remove more ivy from Gerald Island. If you are interested in becoming a BC Marine Trails site steward contact a stewardship chair or the president and they will put your name on the list. We select BCMTNA members first for this type of work. Not only is it fun, collegial and beneficial, but it really helps improve the rocky, coastal island habitats that struggle to maintain their natural integrity due to invasive species, garbage, and sometimes the wanton abuse of the environment.

We are hoping that some recreation will be established on Gerald Island. We are working with BC Parks on a management plan that will not only provide recreation but help protect some of the coastal species on this island. We are about 1200 dollars short of funds (this fundraiser closed).

Our team was involved in much more than a clean up. It's part of our Leave No Trace program described here. When the group initially arrived we used a small Leave No Trace handbook and reviewed our principles/values in relation to camping/working on the island. We hope to set high standards in the future for sustainable recreation.

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