With her clippers in hand, Saanich park volunteer Audrey Trenholme is helping to push back invasive plants and restore critical habitat in Outerbridge Park.
“It’s been called a hidden gem, and it definitely is!” Audrey says. “When you come to the park, it’s a place of peace and beauty.”
Audrey’s been volunteering at Outerbridge Park for 13 years and when she first started, blackberry bushes, thistles and ivy had taken over the Royal Oak Park that was created by Jo Ann Outerbridge and given to Saanich in 2005.
“I love everything about it!” Audrey says. “I love being with the people who have been volunteering here, and the new people who come, and I love being in a place that Mrs. Outerbridge planned for her own garden.”
Rain or shine, volunteers are here every Thursday morning to pull weeds, remove invasive species, and do habitat restoration.
“I think we’re so fortunate to have so many Saanich parks that we can enjoy, but there’s just so much work to do to maintain them,” explains Outerbridge Park volunteer Jane Bond.
This is just one of 45 parks in Saanich that volunteers help look after as part of the ‘Pulling Together’ volunteer program
“I am in awe of volunteers at Outerbridge and the volunteers in all of the parks,” says Saanich Parks stewardship coordinator Katie Turner. “We don’t have the staff capacity to do it, so it really is working with the community to look after these places.”
Without the volunteers, native species — and the parks — would be at risk.
“When you come, you spend a few hours and you feel, even though you may have done just a little patch, you’ve accomplished something,” Audrey says. “It feels so good!”
A small group of Outerbridge volunteers put in more than 1,200 hours a year, and overall, the Pulling Together program sees close to 18,000 volunteer hours.
“They give their time, and they give their their muscle, and their and their energy to these places,” Katie says. “They give a lot of community spirit as well.”
And for many, the community connections they’re building are just as important as the work they’re doing.
“A lot of it is the social aspect of volunteering here,” Jane says. “It makes me feel happy. I think it does a lot for one’s emotions, and you know, people who are sometimes depressed or not feeling good, just get outside and enjoy the fresh air.”
More volunteers are needed at Outerbridge and in all the parks, and Audrey says they get far more out of it, than what they give.
“Each of us feel we belong here and we feel a little bit of it belongs to us, too,” Audrey says. “It’s not ours, but still, we feel that little bit of sense of belonging and sharing.”