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BC Parks Foundation in fundraising race against time to buy Salish Sea island, convert it to park

The BC Parks Foundation is trying to raise $200 thousand before Nov. 17 in an effort to buy West Ballenas Island in the Salish Sea and protect its ecosystem. BC Parks Foundation

It’s a story straight out of the sitcom Parks and Recreation, and it’s happening right here in B.C.

The BC Parks Foundation is in a race against time to raise more than $200,000 so they can buy a private island in the Salish Sea and turn it into a park — before it gets bought by developers.

“West Ballenas Island is the only private non-park parcel remaining in a proposal to establish the Ballenas-Winchelsea Archipelago as a 4900-hectare marine park — a long-standing conservation initiative within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve,” the BC Parks Foundation website reads.

CEO Andy Day told Global News that West Ballenas Island is one of the top 10 biodiverse sites in the Salish Sea and part of an archipelago of 19 islands.

Read more: Indigenous students convince B.C. government to change name of provincial park

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Day said when they say the owner had put it up for sale earlier this year, they knew they had to act quickly.

“[We made] an exclusive deal with the vendor who gave us a couple months, [who] basically said ‘OK, I won’t sell it to anybody else if they offer, I’ll let you guys try to raise the funds,'” Day said.

“And so we’ve got until Nov. 17 basically to get the funds in the door.”

The foundation also succeeded in lowering the asking price for the island from $2.2 million to $1.7 million.

The island is part of the traditional territory of the Snaw-Naw-As Nation and Day said the foundation has been in contact with representatives over the sale.

“If this private land is acquired in order to create a park, all communities and the Snaw-naw-as people will regain access to West Ballenas,” the BC Park Foundation website reads.

Read more: New discoveries made in mammoth effort to catalogue B.C.’s plants and animals

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Day said if the island were to be sold to private bidders, there would be a detrimental impact to the island’s ecosystem as structures get built — even if people follow all the rules.

The BC Parks Foundation says West Ballenas Island is one of the most biodiverse sites in the Salish Sea. BC Parks Foundation

“There’s just oil, and chemical spills, and all kinds of stuff that tend to follow humans around. We’d hate to see that.”

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“This island in particular is a pretty fragile ecosystem. It’s got lots of small plants and animals and stuff that are not easily even noticed or seen, that could be affected for sure.”

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The foundation still needs to raise $220,000 Tuesday to reach its goal.

Read more: BC Parks Foundation crowdfunds $3M to buy Princess Louisa Inlet land

Day said he’s overwhelmed at how the community has come together to help so far.

“Whether it’s Grade 9 students from Ballenas Secondary who’ve taken this on as their personal project or campaign — they’ve raised almost $3,000; they were chopping up firewood and selling it to raise money, they were doing all kinds of stuff. Or whether it’s pensioners, who say ‘I’ve got five bucks this month and I’ll give you five next month,'” Day said.

“We’re just incredibly grateful for that kind of spirit of giving and gratitude that’s bringing British Columbians together. It’s just amazing to be a part of it.”

Last year, the foundation embarked on a similar journey, successfully raising $3 million to buy the Princess Louisa inlet and protect it from deforestation.

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