The BC Parks Foundation has officially raised enough money to purchase West Ballenas Island.
Foundation CEO Andrew Day said they reached their goal of $1.7 million through community support.
“It was a combination of lots of different things; online donations and cheques. But mostly it was thousands of people donating online,” said Day.
Located just east of Parksville in the Salish Sea, West Ballenas Island is home to rare plants, threatened species and various marine life. South Ballenas Island remains Crown land held by the Government of Canada.
Day was unsure what would have happen to the island if the foundation hadn’t raised enough money for its purchase. He said he imagined the sellers would put it back up on the market and sell to developers, risking the already threatened ecosystem once again.
According to Day, the plan for the island involves discussions with the Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose) First Nation, since the island is within Snaw-naw-as territory.
Day said the next step is for the province to begin the process of designating the island as a park, which will likely take a year given the current global COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s perfect actually, though,” said Day. “Because in the meantime we need to do some biological inventory work and just make sure it’s in good shape for people to visit.”
He said once the island is ready, the foundation plans to turn it into a public park that will likely be open to the public, though transportation will not be provided.
“It’s a pretty fragile ecosystem, so we don’t want to have it overrun by people. It’ll mostly be for sailors and people who kayak, that sort of thing.”
According to Day, conservationists will be able to control the impact people have on the island by marking certain areas as off-limits. They also intend to install anti-pollution facilities.
It marks the second time the foundation has successfully purchased property in an effort to protect endangered ecosystems.
The first time was in 2019, when the foundation purchased 2,000 acres of land in the Princess Louisa Inlet, located approximately 60 kilometres west of Pemberton along the Sunshine Coast. The cost to purchase the land in Princess Louisa Inlet was ‘crowdfunded’ for $3 million.