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Gerald Island: Saving an Island Park and Protecting Native Species

Visit our Gerald Island storymap illustrated fall report and/or read a further account below of 2022 work.

Gerald Island is within the traditional territory of the Snaw-naw-as First Nation. Gerald Island is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island. It sits less than one nautical mile off the coast of Nanoose Bay. This 12-hectare island was purchased in 2007 for $1,375,000 and became Gerald Island Provincial Park in 2013. We now have a long-running collaboration between BC Parks and BC Marine Trails (BCMT) working to restore the ecosystem on the island.

Since 2017, BCMT and our volunteers have paddled/boated over to Gerald for extended periods to remove English Ivy from the island in order to protect the native flora and species of concern. This makes the Gerald Island Invasive Species removal one of BC Marine Trails’ longest-running stewardship initiatives. One major reason we continue this work is to protect the Coastal Wood Fern native to the island, which quickly becomes suffocated by the presence of Ivy. The Coastal Wood Fern is a blue-listed species.

This year’s Ivy removal project took place from September 8th to September 11th. With the help of 17 volunteers, we logged 200+ volunteer hours restoring this unique coastal rocky bluff ecosystem to its natural state. Volunteers spent the day delicately removing Ivy from zones where native species were threatened. Tons of hard work and brute strength went into removing convoluted root systems, freeing choked trees and collecting the removed ivy. We spent the majority of the four days clearing a steep hill that was buried under a meter of Ivy flowers, leaves and thick roots. 

Removing Ivy isn’t for the faint of heart. Lots of effort is required to fully remove the root systems and prevent the ivy from regrowing too quickly. We were using a four-step removal process. 

  1. Removal of plant tops, which can be up to a metre in height, mostly using lopping shears, hand pruners, and saws; 
  2. Unearthing as much of the root systems as possible using mattocks, and saws to sever large feeder roots, 10 – 15 cm in diameter,  which extend outward in all directions. Saws are also used to remove root systems attached to trees, from eye level to the ground. Fortunately, roots removed from several trees in 2017 had not regrown, with tops dead and dry. Any new vines approaching the base of these trees were removed.
  3. Then, we removed the roots by pulling smaller roots and using mattocks to fully excavate the tap roots. Once removed, all parts of the ivy are carried on tarps to a central location where it is stacked and stored until later in the fall. 
  4. When weather permits, we return to Gerald Island to burn the Ivy. Burning is done below the high tide line on small pebbles to reduce rock scaring and leave minimal impacts from the fire.

We would like to thank Gene Gapsis for laying the groundwork for this project, building a relationship with BC Parks and dedicating years of effort and passion to this project. We hope to carry on this project in a way that makes you proud. Additionally, a big thank you goes out to the BC Marine Trails stewardship committee for their key role in getting this project off the ground this year with some last-minute hard work to overcome hurdles. Lastly, an enormous round of applause for all 17 of the volunteers who came out and transformed the calories from cookies and snacks into a big 24 x 24 wide and 2-meter high pile of Ivy.

Paul Grey

Paul has been a kayaker for over twenty years and has paddled a number of locations around Vancouver Island, Thailand and Hawaii. He has his Paddle Canada I and II and level 1 kayak guide training and certification. He has worked for the BC Marine Trails as a volunteer for approximately ten years in a number of capacities including being the president of the association. He is also the co-author of Easykayaker: A guide to laid-back paddling and Kayaking Vancouver Island. Paul is a fourth generation islander with his roots in the Nanaimo-Extension area. He also enjoys hiking, traveling and reading. He has received awards in 1993 and 1996 from the Prime Minister of Canada for his work in education; Paul is a recipient of a Royal Bank of Canada fellowship to Queen's University.