OUT ON A LIMB: The otherwordly landscape of Baikie Island

An upside-down root mass looks like witches hair waving in the wind

The landscaping in the interior of Baikie Island is surreal.

Straight logs stick out of the ground like bare pillars. An upside-down root mass looks like witches hair waving in the wind. Frail, spindly alder shoots are protected from the ravages of rapacious deer by fishing nets and the ground is pitted with deep holes. It looks a bit odd – like a newly-landscaped garden that has yet to fill in as the fresh plantings establish themselves. Which, of course, is what it is.

The last time I had crossed the little bridge at the end of Coulter Road, it was with “shovels and rakes and implements of destruction” to quote Arlo Guthrie. We were going to hack and pull at the evil Scotch broom that had established itself on the island like it has on many places on Vancouver Island. By the way, I wish the common name for Cytisus scoparius was not Scotch broom. Being “Scotch,” I don’t like being associated with this noxious plant. Its prolific spores choke allergy sufferers and allow the plant to take over acres of native landscape which has no indigenous predator to beat it back.

The central clearing in Baikie Island that used to house a logging operation, was quickly taken over by broom and the equally dominating alien blackberry.  Once Baikie Island was purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and given to the City of Campbell River (i.e., you and me), all out war was declared on the vile broom and other invasive species. Jim van Tine and volunteers from numerous community groups whacked and hacked and pulled at the bushes to remove them. Others planted trees and shrubs. I was there one recent spring hacking away.

But even though we put in a good day’s work, the area was still covered in broom and I thought, ‘My goodness, they’re going to have scrape this clean if they really want to get rid of this stuff.’

Well, guess what, that’s what they did. Scraped it clear and replanted with native species. They did that last year and already the native plants have established themselves.

The logs and root masses sticking out of the ground I mentioned before are there to replicate wildlife trees which are trees that have died naturally but which are quickly colonized by bugs. That, of course, attracts woodpeckers and flickers which bore into the trunks. The holes they leave provide nesting habitat for birds and a natural habitat returns.

The Baikie Island Restoration project held its official open house on Sunday and it was an opportunity to applaud the broad-based community effort to restore the whole Baikie Island area. Just consider the feathers of birds recolonizing the area as feathers in Campbell River’s cap.