Transformative Restoration at Butchart Gardens

Transformative Restoration at Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens is a group of floral gardens near Victoria, Canada. These spectacular display gardens welcome over a million visitors each year and were designated a National Historic Site in 2004. Robert Butchart was a pioneer in the cement industry. He was attracted to Vancouver Island by the rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production and opened a quarry and factory at Todd Inlet. In 1909, the limestone deposits were exhausted and his wife, Jennie, started the transformation of the abandoned quarry into the lovely Sunken Garden, which opened to the public in 1921. Over time, the Butchart family added the Japanese, Italian and Rose Gardens. More recently concerts, night lighting, a Children’s Pavilion, Carousel and a festive Christmas display were added to this world-famous attraction. In 2004, two totem poles were introduced and dedicated in recognition of the rich cultural contribution of Indigenous Peoples. These were carved in the traditional Salish style by master carvers Charles Elliot and Doug La Fortune of the Tsartlip Nation and Tsawout Band, respectively. 

The transformation of an old quarry into a beautiful garden is one example of what is possible using reclamation and restoration techniques. Many industrial sites throughout the world see rebirth as productive lands or are reclaimed for another use. Key to this metamorphosis is the conservation of the key components that make redesign possible, especially preservation of living soil material. It may be necessary to remediate contamination and re-introduce appropriate plants and animals. The process can be lengthy and needs active monitoring and intervention. However, the results can be spectacular which is very satisfying for both restorationists and end users of the area.

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), https://www.ser.org, leads international efforts to promote the science, practice and policy that result in better restoration efforts. They have a number of very helpful publications and a conference library that currently has 356 presentations from the 2019 meeting in South Africa. With the rapid shift to online teaching and current physical distancing, SER is also offering Wednesday webinars focused on a range of restoration topics. These are free and you can register for the webinars on the website. A great way to find inspiration during difficult times!



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