Covenants, Off-road Vehicles, and Parks

I still remember the day when working at the Goldstream Nature House, I came in to discover a pickup truck stuck in the estuary mud.  The night before, some yahoos had driven down the salmon-bearing Goldstream River, because, as they told the local newspaper reporter, they “hadn’t seen any signs saying they couldn’t.”  Reports of vehicles damaging parks is distressing common.  Mt Well’s, Mt Work, Gowlland-Tod - the list of parks damaged by “off-highway vehicles” goes on.  Much of the damage to flower and plant communities will not heal in our lifetimes.  As a matter of policy, all of these parks prohibit motorized off-road vehicles.  Park agencies install gates and barriers, which are often vandalized to allow access.

Recently, however, a group of OHV enthusiasts managed to convince the CRD’s Regional Parks Committee to direct Parks staff to investigate the possibility of opening the Harbourview Gate in the Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve, and to determine the feasibility of a designated off-road vehicle area inside the Park.  Conservation groups were livid.  Fortunately, in this case, most the land in the Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve has conservation covenants attached to it that prohibit off-road vehicle use.

Covenants are legal agreements that are registered on a property’s title, and remain with the land permanently.  They are an effective way to protect private property from future development, or ensure that governments uphold conservation promises made when acquiring park land.  HAT and TLC, the covenant holders on the Sea to Sea lands, were able to remind the CRD Regional Parks Committee that they had legal obligations to prohibit off-road vehicle use in the Park.

This time there will be no need to enforce the covenants.  After hearing from 23 knowledgeable and passionate speakers representing groups like the Victoria Natural History Society, Preserve Our Parks, the Federation of Mountain Clubs, and the Alpine Club of Canada, the CRD Regional Parks Committee re-affirmed its ban on off-road vehicles.  However, it was a reminder of the importance that Land Trusts need to be strong and ready to defend their covenants if needed.  Covenants are not a one-time commitment.  They require vigilance, monitoring, and sometimes, enforcing.

-          Adam Taylor

If you have pictures of vehicle damage in parks that you are willing to share with us, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


CRD confirms commitment to keep off-road vehicles out of Parks

The CRD Regional Parks Committee meeting vote unanimously to ban off-road vehicles in CRD Parks, including the Sea to Sea Regional Park, and to continue with the Park Management Planning process.

Over two dozen speakers, all 2 opposed to off-road vehicles, spoke to the Committee about the Sea to Sea Green Blue Belt, the amazing natural habitats that it protects, and the damage that off-road vehicles cause.  Thank you all who took the time to come out, or sent in your support.


TLC and HAT Promise to Enforce Sooke Hills Covenant if Required

HAT and The Land Conservancy of British Columbia have confirmed that, if necessary, they will enforce the provisions of a conservation covenant that they hold on Regional Park properties in the Sooke Hills, in order to prevent these areas from being accessed and destroyed by motorized off-road vehicles.

 “We have every confidence that the CRD Board will, of its own accord, Sooke_Hillshonour its commitment to the residents of this area and uphold the covenant agreement that it signed,” says TLC Executive Director Bill Turner today. “On behalf of the many thousands of our members and supporters who live in this region, we strongly encourage the CRD to send a strong message that conservation priorities in the Sooke Hills will not be compromised.”

 A conservation covenant is a voluntary, written agreement between a landowner (in this case, the CRD) and a covenant holder (in this case, TLC and HAT). In the agreement, the landowner promises to protect the land in ways that are specified in the covenant. The covenant holder has the legal authority to enforce the covenant through the courts if the landowner does not abide by the terms of the covenant. The conservation covenant is registered against the title to the property, under section 219 of the Land Title Act. This ensures that the covenant will last permanently.

 Whenever TLC, HAT, or any other land trusts in BC, has acquired property or contributed to the acquisition of property for park purposes, it has always ensured that a conservation covenant is placed on the property to ensure the protection of the site in perpetuity – and to prevent potential actions by a future government that may undermine the protection of the site.

 The conservation covenant in place on the Sooke Hills properties specifically prohibits the off road use of motorized vehicles on the lands (except for emergency and service vehicles).

 “The efforts being made by off-roading enthusiasts to gain access to the Sooke Hills are incompatible, in every way, with the protection of the area and with the provisions of the covenant,” says Adam Taylor, Executive Director of Habitat Acquisition Trust. “It is, by its very nature a destructive and disruptive activity, and it cannot be permitted in our protected areas.”

 Both TLC and HAT stressed that they believe the CRD should simply re-affirm its long-standing policy prohibiting motor vehicle use in parks, and should move forward with the parks management plan for the area.


Swan Lake Native Plant Sale

Join HAT and many others at Swan Lake on April 17th and 18th for their annual Native Plant sale.  The sale is a great way to get those hard-to-find native plants, and connect with other gardeners.  More information at  See you there!

Swan Lake Native Plant Sale



Listen to CBC Radio 90.5 FM Friday at 7:15am

UPDATE: If you missed it, download the Friday, April 9th episode from CBC at

Todd Carnahan speaks with Gregor Craigie about painted turtles at 7:15am Friday morning on CBC Radio 90.5 FM Victoria. Learn more about the five baby turtles found at Beaver Lake and what HAT is doing to help this endangered species. Listen to

On the Island morning show at CBC Radio One Victoria 90.5 FM


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