VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Forest Description

The Milner Woodland is a rare, relatively undisturbed 24 hectare (60 acre) coastal Douglas-fir old growth forest with a well-developed understory of indigenous plants. It has been recognized as a significant, unique feature of the property worthy of preservation.

Forest trails lead visitors from the upper parking lot to the Garden entrance along winding mulch paths and boardwalk. Interpretive panels along the trails provide insight into the ecology, biology and natural science of the forest.

Please note: There are several low steps along portions of the boardwalk which may not be suitable for all wheelchairs. A shuttle cart is available for visitors who do not wish to navigate the forest trail.

Rainshadow Forest

Milner Garden and Woodland is located in the Coastal Douglas-Fir Zone, one of the smallest of British Columbia’s 14 ecological zones, covering only 0.2 % of the province.

Sheltered in the lee of Vancouver Island and Olympic Mountains, this “rainshadow” forest features a Mediterranean type of climate, drier than much of coastal British Columbia. Rainshadow coastal forests are dominated by the magnificent Douglas-fir tree. Common understory shrubs are salal and Oregon grape.

For thousands of years, the pleasant climate and productive ecosystems supported numerous First Nations communities throughout southeastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Some of the earliest European settlers established here as well. A century and a half of logging, farming, and urban development has reduced the old-growth forests in this zone to only 1100 hectares – less than 1% of their original extent.

The Coastal Douglas-fir zone has the smallest amount of old growth remaining in any ecological zone in the province, and while over 12% of British Columbia is in protected areas, only 2.6% of this zone is protected.

Conservation Values

"The Milner Forest has high conservation value in both the provincial and local context. Of the 14 biogeoclimatic zones of British Columbia, the degree to which natural ecosystems have been altered and destroyed is highest in three zones: the Coastal Douglas-fir zone on the Coast, and the Ponderosa Pine and Bunchgrass zones in the Interior. Approximately half of the CDF zone has been converted to uses such as agriculture and residential development that permanently remove the natural ecosystems (primarily forests, but also wetlands, grasslands, estuaries, etc). Only about one percent of the original extent of old growth forest on the CDF zone remains uncut. Less than two percent of the CDF zone is in Protected Areas (Parks and Ecological Reserves) compared to the provincial government’s goal of 12%. Only a few hundred hectares if old growth forest of the CDF zone is in Protected Areas. The British Columbia Conservation Data Centre (CDC), which maintains data on natural features of importance for conservation throughout the province, considers old Douglas-fir forests and undisturbed wetlands in the CDF zone to be extremely rare (Jan Kirkby, British Columbia Conservation Data Centre, Personal Communication).

The local context, the Milner Forest is in the centre of a block of 16 lots known as the “Estate Residential” lands, and area of about 60 hectares of forest, containing about 18 dwellings, surrounded on three sides by suburban uses. Planning documents and zoning bylaws of the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Town of Qualicum Beach indicate that the Estate Residential lands are highly valued by the local community for their greenbelt function, as an oasis of forest in an increasingly urbanized setting.”

- from Milner Gardens and Woodland Forest Management Plan