North Vernon Park
A number of years ago, two wetlands were created in a natural park along BX Creek in North Vernon.
In 2020, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship approached the City of Vernon, looking for a site for a demonstration project in the region and it was decided that we would continue the work on these previously constructed ponds. Our hope is to further restore and steward this site while engaging the community around it in learning about the wildlife supported by the site, including amphibians, reptiles, and birds, as well as participating in ongoing stewardship such as invasive species management and native plant re-vegetation.
North Vernon park offers important wetland and riparian habitat to all sorts of native plants and animals. BX Creek runs along the east edge of the park and the park is located between swan lake and the heron rookery making it very important to the habitat connectivity in the area. The park is also home to a garter snake den. These harmless snakes gather together in safe den sites to survive the winter.
With support from the Okanagan Basin Water Board and RDNO Greater Vernon Natural Areas and Trails grant, we will host several opportunities for local residents to get involved in stewardship of this park. We have held several events and talks so far, including:
- Invasive Plant ID Walk
- Beginner Birding workshop
- Volunteer weed pull day
- Habitat Enhancement Planting Day
- Snakes & Snake Smarts
- All About Amphibians
- Attracting Native Pollinators
When Deleenheer Rd was constructed, there was a berm created between it and North Vernon Park. Huge rocks were placed there and the empty spaces between them were filled in. Not every gap was filled though, and the underground network of small tunnel and chambers was found by the large population of gartersnakes living in the park! This accidentally-created winter hibernacula (den) site has become the winter home for hundreds of Common and Terrestrial Gartersnakes!
A number of years ago, the North Okanagan Naturalists Club constructed wooden fences around the den entrances and placed a line of large rocks along the oark at Delenheer Rd to protect the dens. This summer, OSS is increasing the den protection by placing large rock piles around and over the den entrances too, which will also create some shelter and basking areas for the snakes. While it may look like the den entrances are blocked, the areas directly above the entrances were kept clear and there are many, many gaps and crevices between the rocks through which the snakes will access their dens.
Invasive Plant Management
There are a lot of invasive species in North Vernon Park! Invasive plants are those that come from other places and don't belong in BC. They often grow aggressively and push out native plants, which ruins the habitat for many wildlife species. We target a number of invasive plants as part of this park restoration project. Some of the plants you may see our summer technicians removing include:
Some species of invasive plants re-sprout faster and stronger if you try to dig them up. For some of these plants, chemical sprays are really the only option that we have to try and get them out of the park. We are hopeful that we will only have to spray a few times to get control of these species. The few plants that we need to spray are:
-Poison Hemlock (This one is a health risk to humans!!)
Replanting with native species
Invasive plants have pushed out most of the native tree and shrub species that should be in the park. Part of restoring the park habitat includes replacing the invasive species with native ones! In September 2021, with the help of over 55 volunteers from the community and local company Tekmar Control Systems Ltd., we planted nearly 700 trees and shrubs that will grow to start shading out and competing with the invasive plants, eventually to the point where we don't have to help anymore! Some of the trees and shrubs newly planted in the park include Black Cottonwood, Bebb's Willow, Saskatoon, Trembling Apen, Red-osier Dogwood, Common Snowberry, and Nootka Rose.