If the Brant Wildlife Festival is going to continue to thrive in District 69, the local community is going to have to pick up the baton from the Nature Trust and run with it.
Nature Trust spokesperson Tim Clermont said he has been working hard since his group took over the festival in 2006 to build community buy-in.
“It was in 2006 the torch was passed to us and we agreed to take it on to get it in a solid position, more or less,” Clermont said. “We weren’t going to take it on forever and we’re already a couple of years past what we said we were going to do.”
Clermont said it makes sense for the local business sector to get involved in organizing the festival.
“There is a big business benefit to promoting conservation and wildlife viewing and bringing in people from all over the world,” he said. “That’s a huge opportunity to show off the Oceanside community.”
The results so far, he said, have been encouraging.
“We have both the Parksville and Qualicum Beach chambers involved and Pam Bottomley from the Downtown Business Association and also the Fish and Game Club and Parksville mayor Chris Burger has come out to all the meetings,” he said. “I’m encouraged because the business community and others are starting to recognize we need to work together.”
In particular, he said, the strong buy-in to beach closures for dogs during the Brant migration is unprecedented and largely due to awareness raised by the festival.
“Ten years ago we had a lot of problems with dogs chasing the Brant around in the springtime,” he said. “We got conservation officers interested in trying to stop that from getting out of hand because eventually the disturbance levels would reach a point where the birds would not come here and would not feed properly and likely die because they couldn’t make the 3,000 kilometre flight to Alaska for nesting.”
Qualicum Beach, he noted, has its bylaw officer patrol the beaches during the annual Brant migration to ensure compliance with the municipal bylaw banning dogs from the beach.
“That’s a huge success,” he said. “I don’t know any community in North America that has this kind of compliance level about dogs on the beach.”