Esquimalt Gorge Demo Site Update

The Esquimalt Gorge Park Green Shores® for Shoreline Development (GSSD) demonstration site project continues apace with exciting developments, including the completion of technical reports and conceptual designs, planning for educational outreach, embarking upon the permit approval process, and identification of next steps.

Technical Report Completed

The coastal engineering report that supports all the restoration planning for the site has been completed by WSP Golder. Highlights include comprehensive descriptions of the physical environment, including prevailing winds, tide heights, evidence of erosion, and predicted impacts of climate change.

Concept Design Drafted

Using data provided in the coastal engineering report, the Landscape Architecture firm LEES and Associates completed a Design Concept Plan for Green Shores® restoration that meets the specific requirements of theEsquimalt Gorge Park shoreline and upland area usage.

Design highlights include planting with native vegetation, controlled access to the riparian zone with a new loop trail constructed from permeable materials, and foreshore restoration, including tidal marsh enhancement. Some species to be planted in the upland and riparian zones include Big Leaf Maple, Red Twig Dogwood, and Ocean Spray. In addition, plants such as Saltwort and Dune Grass will be installed in the beach zone or foreshore area.

Planned plantings at the site include big leaf maple (left), ocean spray (centre), and saltwort (right). Photos by Kyla Sheehan.

Additional Funding Received

The Province of BC provided additional funding to the Township of Esquimalt to support this GSSD restoration project through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF). Further enhancements, such as installing a Mobi-mat®,  will provide shoreline access to visitors with mobility challenges.

Permitting Process Underway

The permitting process for this GSSD restoration area is underway and relies heavily upon the Green Shores Guide to BC Expedited Permit Process for Nature-based Projects. Collaboration with project partners, provincial and federal agencies, and consultants has been key to progress thus far. Shared knowledge and learnings from the World Fisheries Trust’s Portage Inlet Cutthroat Initiative fish habitat restoration project and the nearby Songhees Walkway Pocket Beach  GSSD have provided valuable insights to move the project forward.

Signage in Development

The Esquimalt Gorge GSSD Technical Team Signage Sub-committee is developing a minimum of five signs to be displayed around the restoration site for education and outreach. The signage will include ‘Green Shores for Shoreline Development’ – describing the restoration of this site using the Green Shores nature-based framework, ‘Birds, Birds, Birds’ – a sign celebrating the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary where the Gorge is located, ‘Ecology of the Gorge’ to inform visitors about the ecosystems and the species they may encounter, and more.

Next Steps Include:

Construction - July to October 2023

Foreshore and upland restoration is tentatively set for the upcoming Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) “Projects Near Water” window of July 1- October 1, 2023. Contract specifications are being developed using the abovementioned coastal engineering and landscape architect conceptual design plans.

Indigenous Engagement

The Town of Esquimalt is consulting with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. It has welcomed input on the creation of signage to convey the cultural values of the Esquimalt Gorge and surrounding areas.

Community Outreach

A large community event is planned for October 2023 at the Esquimalt Gorge Pavilion and environs in collaboration with the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary (VMBS) 100-year anniversary celebration. Outreach activities may include Green Shores training opportunities and forage fish sampling demonstrations conducted by Peninsula Streams and Shorelines. Stay tuned for further information on this special event, and check back often at our Resilient Coasts events page!

Photo credit: Kyla Sheehan and Mobi-Mat, courtesy Deschamps Mat Systems Inc.

Construction at Songhees Demo site Commencing Soon!

Exciting developments are in progress at this Green Shores for Shoreline Development demonstration site located on the north shore of Victoria’s Middle Harbour.

The area to be restored is just off the Songhees Walkway located immediately adjacent to Victoria International Marina in the City of Victoria’s Lime Bay Park. Project objectives include restoration and enhancement of important cultural and ecological values of the shoreline. The project will provide educational opportunities for Victoria area communities and shoreline practitioners to learn about the benefits of nature-based Green Shores practices for enhancing shoreline resiliency to climate change.  The restoration techniques will also reintroduce and maintain vital nutrient and sedimentary processes and provide spawning habitat for species of forage fish which are a vital link in the marine food web.

The complex coastal marine food web. Illustration by Holly Sullivan.

“We are proud to deliver this shoreline and forage fish habitat enhancement project alongside our valued partners and funders and contribute to the ecological, economic, and cultural values of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Victoria Naturehood, and traditional Territories of the Lekwungen People.”

Key Partnerships and Permits

Peninsula Streams and Shorelines has established formal partnerships with the Parks Department of the City of Victoria, Songhees Nation, and Esquimalt Nation in support of this restoration project.

This project will utilize a new Expedited Permit in BC process for Nature-based Projects. In addition, a  Harbour Activity Permit from Transport Canada, and a Request for Review by Fisheries and Oceans Canada is in progress and will incorporate the final site plan and timelines.

Peninsula Streams and Shorelines is working with its partners, and coastal engineering firm Coastal Geologic Services on the project design including a backshore planting plan that will establish native vegetation in place of invasive plants, provide habitat for shoreline organisms and help to protect the foreshore environment from erosion. The project design has also been informed by innovative use of ground-penetrating radar technology to map the location of bedrock along the backshore.

Ground penetrating radar data collection at Songhees Walkway Pocket Beach. Photo credit: Kyle Armstrong

Cultural Focus: Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation

The demonstration site is located at Mud Bay within the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən People known today as the Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation. Relationship building has been ongoing with the Nations and through these collaborative efforts, feedback was received that the Songhees Nation would like to use the site for landing canoes as was once possible at the site evident in the historical photo below. Mud Bay was used extensively in the past for trading and has a long history of settlement and occupation both pre and post colonization. This design feature will facilitate a Songhees initiative to develop cultural marine tours in the Victoria Harbour Indigenous tourism: Songhees Nation plans marine tours that honour its culture. The scope of the restoration project was directed to reflect this anticipated use of the shoreline, with a redesigned backshore area that provides easier access from the water with gentler slopes.

Mud Bay circa 1909 
Credit: William Taylor, RBCM PN 6872. In Keddie, G. (2003). Songhees Pictorial: A History of the Songhees People as Seen by Outsiders, 1790-1912. United States: Royal BC Museum.

As this site is within a Designated Cultural Resource Site, protocols are being followed including a cultural assessment of the backshore. This work is being led by the City of Victoria Parks Department in collaboration with the Province and the First Nations.

"Songhees Nation is pleased to be collaborating with the Peninsula Streams Society on the Resilient Coasts for Salmon: Songhees Walkway restoration project. The restoration of this pocket beach will aid in reclaiming and restoring our Lekwungen sites’ ecological and cultural values. We are proud to take another step towards combating climate change and contributing to the health and well-being of our territorial lands."

Project Timeline

Enrollment of the project as Green Shores for Shoreline Development has been completed. The project plan and budgets are being finalized, and construction is expected to commence in late summer/early fall 2022. Discussions regarding the creation of interpretative signage are ongoing and will be led by the Songhees Nation.