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Rithet's Bog LogoRescued Area is a Natural Delight
– Rithet’s Bog in Saanich hints at the potential of Delta’s $73-million preservation project

Times Colonist, Monday, March 29, 2004

Four levels of government are spending $73-million on 2,000 peat-filled hectares in Delta – and in the end, it will still be just a bog. But that’s the point.

Burns Bog is an environmental treasure that has avoided substantial development through the years because of the prohibitive cost of making it usable for streets and buildings. Preserving it as a park and conservation site, with limited public access, will mean there is a permanent home for everything from the Greater Sandhill crane and Pacific shrew to sub-arctic dragonflies and Beller’s ground beetle.

Burns Bog is five times the size of Stanley Park. It shows up from space as a green patch in the development that covers so much of the Lower Mainland, and it’s been saved from development by the provincial, federal, regional and municipal governments.

The bog is bounded roughly by the Fraser River, Highway 99 and Highway 91, which means Island residents can see its western edge as we travel to and from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, and often the entire bog if we fly between Victoria and Vancouver.

Greater Victoria residents should appreciate the value of a good bog. We’ve got Rithet’s Bog, in a low-lying basin just east of the Pat Bay Highway in the Broadmead area of Saanich.

The bog, a vital part of the Colquitz River system, was donated to Saanich in 1994 by Broadmead Farms, the development company which opened the area surrounding the bog to upscale housing.

With its focus on conservation rather than recreation, Rithet’s Bog is different from the other 146 parks in Saanich – and it’s rebounding nicely now that water-sucking willows and ditches have been removed.

Bogs suck up greenhouse gas pollutants such as carbon and methane. They also moderate water supplies between times of storm and drought. And most important of all, they provide key habitat for wildlife.

Rithet’s Bog is a fraction of the size of Burns Bog, but its 42 hectares of marshes and wet meadows provide a refuge for redwing blackbirds, sparrows, long-billed marsh wrens, nesting mallards and green-winged teal, as well as deer, muskrats and great blue herons. The open water is good habitat for insect-eaters such as frogs, bats and the violet-green swallow.

Not all that long ago, wetlands were viewed as wastelands, and were drained in the name of productivity. In 1999, a plan to move the Pacific National Exhibition and set up a motorsports track on Burns Bog was narrowly rejected.

Now the bog will remain a natural oasis forever. If bald eagles and spotted skunks could talk, they would surely say that it’s $73 million that’s been well spent.

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