A short fundraising campaign has enabled the BC Parks Foundation to purchase West Ballenas Island from a private company for $1.7 million. An anonymous donor matched all donations from the public, so the foundation had to raise $850,000, according to its website.
“There’s so much goodwill out there amongst British Columbians for living where we live and for the beautiful places we have in our incredible world-class park system. I thought we had a shot at it and every time we put out the call to British Columbians they show up in big numbers,” said Andy Day, CEO of BC Parks Foundation.
The island is the last privately held non-park parcel of land needed for a proposal to establish the Ballenas-Winchelsea Archipelago as a 4900 hectare marine park. Day said the next step in the proposal is consultation with the Snaw-naw-as First Nation and the federal and provincial government.
West Ballenas Island is important because of its ecological value — Day said it was named one of the top 10 most biodiverse sites in the Salish Sea. He said the fundraising effort was driven by having people donate whatever they are able to — no matter how much or how little.
“Parks are for everybody and so is protecting parks — it’s not just for the wealthy or people who have more means. It’s for everybody to have a chance to give back and feel that great feeling that you get form both being in parks, but also creating a great legacy and creating a new park,” he said.
The considerations efforts for West Ballenas are part of something bigger than just the island, according to Day. People can continue to contribute to the cause and all additional funds will be put toward protecting other sites, according to the foundation’s website.
“We plan to do one of these a year for the rest of our lives and that’s kind of our bucket list, so that when we are ready to kick the bucket, we can look back and say, ‘well you can take me, but you can’t take these dozens of places that we have protected. These places that are full of life’,” Day said.
He said donors are already interested in contributing to purchases of other sites on Vancouver Island and across the province.
The foundation is finalizing the deal for West Ballenas and should have ownership of the island within the next 10 days, according to Day.