The sun blazed down on Cypress Provincial Park as Vancouver 2010 and Cypress community partners worked to save samples of 12 plant species from demolition on a hot day in early July. The “locally significant” plants were found growing in a small wetland – the site for a future snow-making reservoir.
“It’s important to salvage any uncommon plants that have value to the public ... If we just shrugged our shoulders then that would be a loss,” said Alex Wallace, member of the Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society, a charity dedicated to the protection of Cypress Park's environment.
Wallace said that the plants – including species such as the common butterwort, three-leafed goldthread and round-leaved sundew – are not rare, but are not usually found in environments such as the reservoir site.
The plants were discovered in an environmental assessment of the site. While not required to salvage the plants, Vancouver 2010, its partners and environmental consultants decided that saving them would benefit the park.
The common butterwort (pinguicula vulgaris) has never before been found growing in Cypress Park
“Right from the beginning, we had a commitment to delivering great Games on a sustainability platform, and that includes being smart about preparing and staging the Games on as small an environmental footprint as possible,” said Ann Duffy, the program director of sustainability at Vancouver 2010. “When the local community said this was something it really cared about, we said ‘okay, we’ll address that.’”
An excavator was used to dig up large swaths of earth, but a number of plants in sensitive or hard-to-reach areas were moved by hand. Volunteers from Vancouver 2010 donned rubber boots and hard hats at 8:30 am and spent the day shin-deep in muddy water, carefully loosening muddy plots of vegetation with gardening shovels.
Ian Ponsford was one of about a half-dozen VANOC employees who volunteered to help move the plants.
“We talk about it [the environment] and we write about it all the time, but we don’t normally get our hands in it too much,” said Ponsford, who works in environmental approvals and management at Vancouver 2010. “I’m better at writing reports than I am at getting my hands dirty, so today felt very good.”
After excavation, volunteers carefully moved the tiny plants to their new site at a muddy ditch nearby. A local water current had been routed through the ditch earlier that day, providing the plants with enough moisture to survive.
VANOC’s environmental monitor, Alex Sartori, said that in addition to the day spent moving the plants, the project required a week of preparatory labour and over a month of planning.
“Everyone involved – be it Cypress Bowl, Vancouver 2010 contractors or the Cypress community – has really come together to make this possible,” Sartori said.
The project is breaking ground in more ways than one. Little is known about relocating plants in a sub-alpine environment, and specialists hope to learn more through observing the plants. As a means of extra precaution, 20 per cent of the plant samples were taken to the nursery of Frank Skelton, a leading expert in native wetland plants.
In addition to the Friends of Cypress, BC Parks, Cypress Bowl Recreation Limited and environmental consultants, North Construction (a local construction contractor specializing in extreme terrain development) donated man power and equipment time.
“This is partnership at work,” said Dan Doyle, the executive vice president at Vancouver 2010 responsible for venue construction. “One of the things that we want to do with our Games venues is to be a friend to the environment and produce sustainable venues and this is another example of that.”
Doyle added, “This is the kind of work that we at VANOC want to be known for when we leave in 2010.”