In a place as beautiful as Greater Victoria, it’s no wonder there are more people than ever checking out the sights in our local regional parks and trails.
CRD Regional Parks provide over 300 kilometres of trails and a range of opportunities for outdoor recreation, experiencing nature, learning about natural and cultural heritage and participating in park stewardship.
But with more people out in parks, it’s crucial that the importance of staying on trails is understood by visitors, both for their safety and for the health and longevity of our park systems.
The CRD (Capital Regional District) identifies and reduces threats to the natural landscapes in regional parks and trails through research, planning, active management, stewardship, monitoring and enforcement in collaboration with First Nations, community members, and regional and provincial partners.
Regional parks and trails like Thetis Lake, Elk/Beaver Lake, and the Galloping Goose get millions of visits every year, and each and every individual’s actions add up quickly; your choices matter! Check out CRD’s park usage and rules here for more info on how you can be a great park visitor.
In the meantime, here are some basic dos and don’ts for when you’re frequenting trails in Victoria:
1. Do stay on sanctioned trails
Did you know that non-CRD trail map sources (open-source maps, online apps) will show both sanctioned AND unsanctioned trails? Sanctioned trails factor in a buffer zone between human activity and sensitive areas that other, unsanctioned may not. Unsanctioned trails found online may not be safe, for yourself and/or for park ecosystems. Use official Park Maps to plan your route.
2. Don’t create new trails or go bush-whacking
Blazing new trails may seem fun in the moment, but it has lasting impacts; it disturbs sensitive areas, disrupts wildlife, and could even disturb culturally significant sites. Just because you may not see the immediate impacts doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and individual actions add up fast in busy park systems. Stay on-trail and help protect the parks you love for future generations.
3. Do take pictures and leave only footsteps
With the exception of picking up trash, always go by this simple mantra – leave it how you found it! Picking plants, flowers and other pieces of nature like mosses, lichens and mushrooms, can disrupt sensitive ecosystems and wildlife. Regional parks are home to plants, animals, and sites that are culturally significant to local First Nations – please tread lightly on these ancestral lands.
4. Don’t leave behind garbage/recycling/dog waste and dog waste bags
People leaving trash behind contributes to pollution and can cause choking hazards for wildlife! Always pack out what you pack in and leave the park a better place than you found it.
5. Do keep your dog on-trail, in sight, and under control
Dogs are curious creatures! Make sure your dog doesn’t eat harmful materials that naturally occur in park systems like mould, animal feces, or poisonous mushrooms by keeping them in sight and on a leash where required. Letting your dog run free off the trail can disturb sensitive areas, disrupt ground-nesting birds and other wildlife, or attract/spook predators like bears, cougars and wolves (which puts you, your pooch, and other park visitors in danger).
6. Don’t let your dog approach strangers or wildlife
Uncontrolled and unleashed dogs can add stress for other park visitors and wildlife. Even the friendliest, most adorable pup is terrifying to shoreline birds, to other dogs that are reactive, or to folks with phobias. Prevent these unhappy encounters by being situationally aware and only allow your pup off-leash in off-leash areas if they have good recall and listen to commands.
7. Don’t start illegal campfires and don’t smoke
Especially during the dry summer months, illegal campfires and smoking in parks can cause wildfires and pose risks to entire park systems, including other visitors and wildlife.
When you’re visiting the numerous parks and trails the region has to offer, trail etiquette is important—check out more info on that here!