“That’s something I could get behind!”

In the fall of 2004, Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley saw a notice in The Sounder announcing the first AGM of a new organisation, the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust. Having recently settled on Gabriola, she was keen to get involved in the community, and with her love of the outdoors, parks, trails and conservation, she was drawn to the idea of GaLTT; she thought, “that’s something I could get behind!” Dyan was also motivated by her background as a civil servant and interest in organisational governance, and so, at that first meeting, she became a Board member and, a few years later, GaLTT’s second president, a role she held for two years (2008 and 2009).

People in a meadow pulling small broom plants. In the foreground a man in a red shirt extracts a small plant while a woman watches. There is a dense thicket of blooming scotch broom behind them.

As president, Dyan was especially concerned about invasive species, explaining, “If we see the organisation as one that wants to take care of the land and make it accessible…we can’t do it unless we get rid of some of those invasives.” During those early years GaLTT began clearing the Scotch broom that had completely overtaken the headland at Drumbeg. Given broom’s capacity for regeneration—the seeds can survive for 70 years—it can take decades of dedicated clearing to eradicate it and reclaim the land for native species, such as the Garry Oak and Camas Lily, a traditional Indigenous food source. What started out as a project—the clearing of the broom at Drumbeg—evolved into a program to combat invasives around the island. Dyan is “super pleased to look back at what [GaLTT] accomplished in removing invasives—it’s really impressive.” She adds that this aspect of GaLTT’s mandate has also helped expand the organisation, allowing people of different abilities to engage and contribute.

Dyan also recalls some of the inevitable formative challenges that arose during her time as president, reflecting that “it is valuable for an organisation to remember where they came from and what struggles they went through to get there.” A volunteer organisation faces particular challenges in establishing a working board and effective governance, and Dyan shares that from the start, she was impressed by the GaLTT boards’ willingness to deal with some difficult issues and collectively establish their priorities and values. Dyan considers she was privileged to have been part of this history: “I think the big take away for me is that over all of those years we were able to have hard discussions, and people came with a principled approach”—even when they didn’t agree, they generally came to consensus through discussion and compromise.

One particular issue she recalls from her presidency involved GaLTT’s evolving position on treaty lands and by extension, the organisation’s relationship with the Snuneymuxw First Nation. One board member wanted GaLTT to advocate for trail access on treaty land. After much intense discussion, the board collectively decided—given the Snuneymuxw were in continued negotiations with the Crown—that GaLTT would not pursue treaty lands as parks and would continue to engage with the Snuneymuxw to ensure it was okay to walk on these lands.

In looking back at this time, Dyan reflects on the inherent connection between GaLTT’s desire to respect those with a “historic preceding interest” in the land and the issue of invasive plants, claiming, “I think what we were accomplishing in those days was the concept of the decolonizing of parks and trails.” Settlers brought broom, ivy and other invasives, which literally colonised the landscape, and thus, “when you start tackling removal of those things, what you’re doing is starting to decolonize the land and those trails. Looking back, that’s the work we were engaged in though we didn’t realise it. But it’s good work and I’m glad we struggled through.”

Dyan has remained a GaLTT member and monthly donor; she’s a big advocate of monthly donations, noting that even small amounts not only add up but also enhance the organisation’s ability to plan.

Today, Dyan particularly values GaLTT’s conservation efforts, given such initiatives can help address the impact of the climate crisis. In consulting and coordinating with the RDN and organisations such as the fire department, GaLTT can contribute to the maintenance of healthy forests, helping to build fire resistance and “support the ecosystem to manage itself in a way that potential for negative impacts is reduced.” Her hope is that GaLTT will continue to engage in such collaboration, alongside “all of us citizens,” to conserve and protect these lands for years to come.

Photos courtesy of Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley
A man with an extractigator holds a scotch broom plant recently pulled. There is a pile of pulled plants in the foreground and a wall of broom behind him.
We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a series of posts capturing the reflections and perspectives of GaLTT past presidents. Thanks so much to Trish Matson for conducting the interviews and writing these articles. Watch for more in coming months!
Tags: , , , , Categories: HistoryPublished On: February 25, 2024

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