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Rithet's Bog LogoBog Users Caught up in Spray

Saanich News - Wednesday, July 19, 2000 - Ingird Paulsen

Not long ago Joanne Frappell was walking along Rithet's Bog with her dog and daughter when suddenly she was showered with a pesticide that a neighbour was spraying alongside the protected nature sanctuary.

“There is a huge complex of condominiums that run along the wildlife reserve,” explains Frappell, who estimates the Foxborough Hill complex covers a third of the park’s perimeter. “They were spraying the trees along their property and the spray was going into the bog. We could taste the spray and it was quite disgusting.”

Frappell’s concerns heightened when later on her hike she happened across Sharon Hartwell, the president of the Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society, who informed her that the number of species of butterflies in the bog had dropped over the years from 20 to two. Hartwell speculates that a number of factors have contributed to the decline in butterflies but she would like to limit those factors as much as possible.

After quizzing the man who was spraying the trees, Hartwell learned he was an independent contractor who was hired by the strata council of a neighbouring condominium complex. He said his job was to spray insecticide once a year in the spring to destroy tent caterpillars. “He was aware of the nature park and was careful to wait for a windless day before spraying.” said Hartwell.

Still worried about the rare species of butterflies that live in the bog like the Propertius duskywing and Vancouver Island Ringlets, Hartwell decided to argue the case for the rare species of butterflies that inhabit the bog directly to the strata council.

“Eight years ago this land was donated as a park and a nature sanctuary. It is a sensitive wet land,” says Hartwell.

According to Hartwell, the council, who noted that it was a garden committee that was in charge of the spraying, was “shocked. They didn’t know what was going on.”

The council informed her that they wouldn’t get a chance to officially address the garden committee until later in the month, but in the meantime no spraying is scheduled.

Hartwell is encouraged by the strata’s response so far. The incident was a chance lesson that prompted Hartwell to rethink her assumptions about the gardening methods used around the park.

“I guess I was living in an insulated world thinking everyone feels the same way I do about spraying around a nature sanctuary,” says Hartwell.

“There is no need to just automatically spray. But there are people who still operate with an older style of gardening. I’m pretty sure they will back off considering the response from the strata council, but I’m going to use this as an opportunity to educate with letters, not only to the strata, but to the neighbours all the way around the bog. The letters will say, these people were spraying with insecticide, what do you do?”

Hartwell hopes to open us discussion and get people thinking about butterflies and other insects they kill using pesticides, and to point them to less toxic alternatives for their gardens.

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