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Tsolum River Garry Oak Ecosystem

Courtenay, British Columbia, V9N, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2009/08/04

Tsolum River Garry Oak Ecosystem; City of Courtenay, 2009
Garry oaks at First Presbyterian Church, 2009
Tsolum River Garry Oak Ecosystem; City of Courtenay, 2009
Location map of Garry oaks, 2009
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/11/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Tsolum River Valley Garry Oak Ecosystem is a unique ecosystem in northeast Courtenay, roughly located between Headquarters Road to the east and Highway 19A to the west and Vanier Drive to the north and Ryan Road to the south and include prominent sites such as the Glacier View/Dingwall neighbourhood, Comox Valley Sports Centre property, the Vanier School property, the forest north of Vanier school, and the Presbyterian and Anglican church properties on Highway 19A. The area is approximately 115 hectares in size and features over a hundred Garry oak trees as well as numerous species of mature trees and vegetation.

Heritage Value

The Tsolum River Valley Garry Oak Ecosystem is significant for its biological, cultural and aesthetic value, particular for its uniqueness, its ability to impart knowledge, its association with the area’s First Nations people, and the mature nature of the several species of trees, vegetation and shrubbery found in the area.

The biological value of the Tsolum River Valley Garry Oak Ecosystem lies in its location as the most northern Garry oak ecosystem in Canada. Many of the trees are found on deep, moist soils, a contrast to most Garry oak ecosystems which are typically found on shallow, dry, or rocky sites. Also of significance are the varieties of trees that are found within the ecosystem, including Sitka spruce, grand fir, Douglas-fir, bigleaf maple, and bitter cherry, making this particular stand one of the last remaining “woodland” oak communities in Canada.

The cultural and social value of the Tsolum River Valley Garry Oak Ecosystem is linked to its association with Comox Valley’s First Nations people, a cultural history that includes archaeological sites and written or verbal knowledge indicating a long history of First Nations use in the area. It is an example of a cultural ecosystem which was sustained by First Nations using fire to maintain oaks and open meadows. First Nations use of the area occurred for at least 5000 years.

It is also notable that the rarity of this Garry oak ecosystem, coupled with the area’s close proximity to a large high school, highlights the potential for this ecosystem to present learning opportunities to a large student population as well as neighbouring residents, naturalists, scientists and all citizens. It also presents opportunities for students to learn restoration techniques and stewardship practices.

The oaks and their open meadows and associated vegetation are also distinct from most conifer-dominated native forest, and are a valuable aesthetic feature in Courtenay. The aesthetic value of the Tsolum River Valley Garry Oak Ecosystem is also exemplified by its prominent setting which serves as a transition space between the burgeoning residential growth to the west of the Tsolum River Valley and the predominantly agricultural areas to the east. The mature nature of the Garry oak trees, which are between 80 and 200 years of age, coupled with the presence of other types of species of trees and vegetation greatly add to the aesthetic character of this historic place.

Source: City of Courtenay Planning Department

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements which define the heritage character of the Tsolum River Valley Garry Oak Ecosystem include its:

- mature Garry oak trees occurring either in groups or as isolated trees
- associated native vegetation including other trees, and understorey shrubs, ferns, wildflowers, and grasses
- native animals including birds, small mammals, and butterflies that use Garry oak or other components of the ecosystem
- rich soils that developed with the oaks and which were influenced by First Nations burning
- evidence of the management of vegetation with fire to maintain open meadows and improve resource availability
- open meadows or shrub communities with mature oaks



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land
People and the Environment

Function - Category and Type


Nature Element


Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Courtenay Planning Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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