The combined efforts of environmental groups, individuals and local governments have successfully raised the funds needed to purchase the French Creek Estuary, to be preserved as an eagle sanctuary.
“This is a fantastic story,” said Andy Day, CEO of the BC Parks Foundation. “There has been an incredible outpouring of goodwill in the community, making the longstanding dream of an eagle sanctuary come true. A lot of people feel like they are soaring with the eagles right now.”
With the assistance of BC Parks Foundation, more than $5.1M in donations were raised to purchase 18 acres of estuary land and join it to the five acres of existing protected area, for a 23-acre nature reserve. It also is a realization of a dream of creating a protected eagle reserve within the forested property.
The land hosts bald eagles who come by the thousands from as far away as Alaska to join resident and nesting eagles and feast on the teeming abundance of the Salish Sea.
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Beyond eagles, the French Creek Estuary is a diverse and rich ecological system supporting 180 species of birds, 60 species of waterfowl, salmon, river otters and beaver. Nineteen of the species in the estuary are considered at risk. It will remain private and off-bounds to visitors for the coming months as the deal closes and restoration and planning begin.
Once the purchase is finalized, the RDN will be a co-owner with the BC Parks Foundation, and will manage the lands as a nature preserve under the Electoral Area G Community Park Service through a 99-year renewable lease agreement with the foundation.
Donations came from all sides, with the biggest coming from the landowners, French Creek House Ltd., who agreed to gift $3,280,000 of land value. That was followed by a $1 million donation from British Columbian Dax Dasilva and his non-profit Age of Union Alliance. The Regional District of Nanaimo then agreed to provide $400,000.
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“The Regional District of Nanaimo is proud to be a partner in this important land acquisition,” said Electoral Area G (Englishman River, San Pareil, French Creek, Little Qualicum, Dashwood) director Lehann Wallace. “We extend our gratitude to the many in our community whose efforts and generosity helped make this nature preserve a reality. “The eagle sanctuary at French Creek Estuary is a truly special place, and we are delighted that it will continue to be vital habitat for many threatened species and a natural green space for the community to enjoy.”
The remaining amount of more than $500,000 came from people from every walk of life.
“It was thousands of people like you and me, who want to keep B.C. beautiful,” said Day, who noted some special donors honouring loved ones who had passed on. “That’s the beauty in this – many people being moved in some way to do what they could, in a spirit of gratitude and celebration, and all of that adding up to make something wonderful and lasting happen.”
Day credits the efforts of volunteers, in particular the Save Estuary Land Society and Friends of French Creek Conservation Society, who spearheaded local efforts and have worked for years to protect the estuary.
“It’s been so inspiring to see people come up with such creative ways to raise awareness and donations for the French Creek Estuary eagle sanctuary,” said Denise Foster, chair of the Save Estuary Land Society. “When we come together in our local neighbourhoods to help protect nature, it’s an amazing feeling. It unites us as a community.”
Supporters ranged from youth to elders in the community. Students from Ballenas and Kwalikum Senior Secondary schools planted hundreds of native trees along the lower corridor of French Creek’s riparian zone during the campaign. The Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association held a cycling event for the eagles.
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