Taking deep calming breaths, close your eyes and imagine your favourite natural area… Now imagine protecting that place, and all of the features that make it special… What if we told you that people in your community are preserving their important places like yours? What if we told you that you could to?
Mike and Anne Stack own a beautiful property with a natural area in Saanich that was originally owned by Anne’s Father. Growing up on the land, watching as the surrounding farmer’s fields and rural space transformed into an urban space, Anne and Mike decided to do something about the fate of their forest. To do this, the Stacks have willed their property to the Habitat Acquisition Trust, so that a conservation covenant can be placed for the protection of its natural features. A truly thoughtful gift to leave to our community.
Before Anne’s family owned the land, it is recorded in the Saanich Archives as a fox farm built in 1901, called Rock Mount Fox Farm, and owned by the Elder family. Today their corner lot stands out with its display of greenery, including Garry oaks and Oso Berry bushes, with Fawn lilies and Camas below, growing among the exposed and mossy rock. One particular rock stands out among the rest and Mike tells us, “I always think of this as an amazing piece of rock, it’s been there since the ice age.” A glacial erratic! The Garry Oak Corner, as we call the Stacks' natural habitat, is a piece of the important urban forest. Ann explains, “The whole area was very rural, but as time went on, you know, other people’s traditions came, so this seems like a wonderful piece of property today.”
As Anne’s family neighbourhood was subdivided and developed around them, Mike tells of an encounter, “a couple of years ago a real-estate chap walked up to me and said, ‘I can make you a rich man,’ and I replied that I am a rich man. He had no idea what I was talking about. Being responsible for this is so much richer than tiny bits of paper money.”
Preserving neighbourhood community and spreading kindness is important to Mike and Anne, it’s plain to see as Anne tells us, “When they subdivided around us, our neighbours were blocked a little bit, so we let them come through our yard. I think it keeps a sense of community, and that’s why we decided once we passed that it would be nice to have this path and this natural part protected”.
“I always thought the woods were magical, even as a child making forts. But I know once we’re gone we’ll have no control of what happens, but this covenant at least gives us some ability to preserve it. Places like these in the urban areas are getting smaller you know, there are only small pockets of nature left, it’s worth preserving.”
In their day-to-day life, the Stacks are wonderful stewards of their land for nature too. When one of their trees died, they asked arborists to top it and leave the rest as a wildlife tree with a native plant garden around the base. Anne has been planting native species like Red Flowering currants to enhance their natural area too. This spring, Anne even signed up for a native plant class at the Horitculture Centre of the Pacific saying, “we thought we could learn more about the native plants for this space.”
The Stack’s naturescape has also been a help to nature as the host site of environmental studies. In the late 1970’s, when their trees had a Gall Wasp infestation, the city took notice and entomologist Bob Duncan and his colleagues came from the Pacific Forestry Centre to study the wasps. “It sounded like the oak trees were being rained upon with the sound of all of them chewing.” The Cooper’s Hawks that make the area home were also banded for a study done by Andy Stewart of the Ministry of Environment. While visiting with the Stacks this Spring, a hawk flew by and alighted on a high oak branch bringing excitement and awe to each of us present.
The forested area of the Stack’s property is adjacent to Saanich land. In the past, Strawberry Vale School students, the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, and the municipality teamed up to remove English Ivy there. With growing interest in and understanding of the value of urban forest in the community Ann hopes that this partnership can be rekindled to fight back the returning English Ivy.
“It’s a nice feeling for us, that this is a continuing project that will go on long after we are gone.” Mike tells us. “Right now, we’re just happy that if anything happens to us that it’s set and HAT would protect the land. Some of the most peaceful, calm moments of my life have been to walk through all of this at dawn.” Anne shares.
Mike is pleased to see the direction that people in the Habitat Acquisition Trust community are going, “It’s amazing, I started teaching in the very early 70’s, and during the 80’s it was most disheartening. Everyone wanted to be rich, everyone wanted to be a player in the dot com era. I’ve been looking at new letters from HAT and seeing that young people are more interested in going green now than anyone! Certainly it’s the educational aspect of HAT, getting young people involved which really hits me.”
Before we parted from a lovely visit with Mike and Anne, Anne told us, “HAT has a good perspective of what they are able to accomplish which allows them to accomplish more than when organizations try to do everything.”
If Habitat Acquisition Trust can inspire and educate the future generations of Habitat Stewards, while helping people protect their precious natural areas for the benefit of our entire community, then we are all thrilled with everything we are accomplishing for you. We thank you, and both Anne and Mike, for the opportunity to protect nature together.