Saanich receives $1.2M to restore ecosystems lost during McKenzie Interchange construction

The McKenzie Interchange project is pictured in its final stages of construction: (Province of B.C.)

The province is sending $1.2 million to the District of Saanich to restore treelines and ecosystems that were lost during the construction of the McKenzie Interchange highway project.

The district says it will use the funding to restore Garry oak and trembling aspen habitats at three parks, Layritz Park, Vic Derman Park and Cuthbert Holmes Park.

According to Saanich, these three parks were chosen because they have adequate space to plant new trees and resemble the ecosystems that were demolished during construction of the interchange.

"From the very start of the McKenzie Interchange project the ministry has been committed to making sure we worked with Saanich to offset for the trembling aspens and Garry oaks that needed to be removed for construction," said B.C. Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming in a release Thursday.

"Saanich is a beautiful place to live and these enhancements to the ecosystem will ensure it remains so for generations to come," he said.

Saanich Parks staff will begin work on the three restoration projects in spring 2022. Besides planting trees, the district says it will also build a new trail and install new signs in Layritz Park, and relocate a trail at Cuthbert Holmes Park. Saanich also plans to add in-stream river upgrades at Cuthbert Holmes.

The municipality says the $1.2 million was calculated by an independent biologist's assessment of the McKenize Interchange project, using the province's Environmental Mitigation Policy.

"We are pleased the province is contributing these significant funds to enhance, restore and replace these important ecosystems in Saanich," said Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes.

"These works on our precious ecosystems talk to the very core values of Saanich as the remarkable rural, coastal, wooded and urban municipality our residents enjoy," he said. 

The McKenize Interchange project completed in fall 2020 at a price of approximately $96 million.