Conserving the Magic of Matson
- Created: Tuesday, 05 December 2017 13:59
Ecological value and cultural legacy
An awe-inspiring natural haven of well-being nestled next to the city; a wildlife refuge hugging the coast of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary; and a living reminder of the camas meadows that once dominated the southern tip of Vancouver Island – this is the Matson Conservation Area.
Located on the shores of Esquimalt, this 2.4 acre, owned by local land trust charity Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is visited by people from all over the world. They jog or stroll along the West Song Walkway, often pausing to take in the breath-taking scenery.
Year after year, dedicated volunteers, including the Matson Mattocks stewardship group take care of this land with the help of HAT. Pulling, snipping and girdling invasive plants, spreading wildflower seed, and planting native flora. This year volunteers gave over 400 hours of their hard work to nurturing Victoria Inner Harbour’s last intact Garry oak ecosystem.
Local hummingbird expert Eric Pittman has been visiting for 7 years now, and shares his perspective here,
“Matson represents what used to be there. As a result, it’s become an oasis for animals to come to. Raccoons, otters, deer, and lots of birds come through here. I’ve seen Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, owls, Blue Jays and more.”
Eric estimates that there are 30-40 resident hummingbirds living here annually; a densely populated hummingbird area for our region.
“When I started going to Matson, it was hard to even see where your foot hit the ground because of all the ivy. Now you can see the ground and you can see how things are going to come back.”
Eric brings his interest in nature to a global audience. “If Matson wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to film hummingbirds. In the Matson Lands, they’re always there. This area is responsible for me being able to do my photography. I’ve been on a couple of expeditions with the BBC now and send video to television stations. I’ve had a lot of good things come of it.”
Matson is protected today because of the immense efforts of our community coming together. When the land was slated for development, the Friends of Matson Lands stepped in to protect it. Biologist Dr. Louise Blight, original co-chair of that group lends her voice,
“These woodlands and meadows are unique and beautiful. They are home to many native species, some of them rare and endangered. It’s a place I like to go bird-watching throughout the year as different birds use the Garry oaks throughout the seasons. We’re losing places to appreciate nature in around the city, and the Matson Lands remain a place where people can do that."
"I moved in just down the street from the Matson Lands in 1999. This big chunk of relatively unspoiled Garry oak woodland was one of the main things that attracted me to the neighbourhood, and I was dismayed to hear that there was a development proposal for this site. As a biologist I knew that Garry oak ecosystems were increasingly rare in BC and I wanted to do what I could to try to protect this place because it is a part of where I live. I heard a small group of neighbours were meeting to form a group, so I joined them, and things took off from there. We called ourselves The Friends of Matson Lands.
I know that the residents of Swallow's Landing - the development that was ultimately built on the upper half of the Matson Lands, which is the portion where buildings had already sat for decades, and the right place to build - have a stewardship group that goes regularly to the Matson Lands to remove invasive plant species. It's important that these efforts to restore the woodlands continue to expand, and that the people who live nearby continue their relationship with this special piece of land. I'd like to be remembered as a member of the Friends of Matson Lands, a group of friends and neighbours who got together to organise their community against the loss of a cherished piece of nature, and won!”
With community support, Habitat Acquisition Trust protects land and hosts ecological restoration and nature education events across the region.
Special protected places like Matson play an important role in our community and they are in desperate need of our continued care. We believe that caring for the land and working with the community, including local youth, to build skills for stewarding the land is paramount to ensuring ecosystems remain healthy and functional for generations to come.
This year, Habitat Acquisition Trust would like to host two public habitat restoration days to keep the invasive species at bay and engage the greater community in taking ownership of Matson’s protection. HAT also plans to begin a comprehensive baseline to collect information on pollinators living at Matson.