Western painted turtles at Gardom Lake may not realize it, but they have fans, dedicated fans.
Gardom Lake has a relatively large population of the native but blue-listed species, a classification which means the turtles are particularly sensitive or vulnerable to human activities or natural events.
“As traffic increases and as housing increases, we’re seeing more and more of them on the road, flattened during nesting season,” said Liz Winter, president of the Gardom Lake Stewardship Society. “The issue is how to get more nests closer to the lake so they don’t have to interact with the roads.”
This summer, society volunteers and supporters took on that challenge in a big way.
Two people who own land adjacent to the outflow creek of Gardom Lake committed to have approximately two acres set up indefinitely as a turtle nesting site.
“When they commit, they’re committing to not changing it in the future,” Winter said of their generous contribution.
The society obtained authority from the provincial government to do the work. The turtles prefer a south slope with low vegetation, so 20 feet of the foreshore was cleared to allow turtles access to the nesting site.
In preparation for a work bee on July 24, donated gravel was delivered ahead of time, as well as equipment to remove invasive species like poison ivy.
Winter said there was a great response, with supplies and equipment donated by six local construction and excavation companies, as well as Gardom Lake Bible Camp and members of the Ranchero Deep Creek Fire Department. Also contributing were 20 adult volunteers and one child.
That child was six-year-old Colton Smith, son of Natalie and Devon Smith who own Landmark Excavating. Colton brought his own Tonka dump truck and did 15 to 20 loads of gravel himself, said Winter.
“He was pretty amazing, a real fun addition. He was so dedicated to getting the loads out – he took it very seriously. We treated him like he had his own business,” she said, noting he had his dump truck washed off at the end with the other equipment.
Dad Devon agrees that Colton is pretty inspired.
“He’s having fun doing it, but he does take it seriously. He wants to help out the turtles.”
Winter explains that the turtles prefer compacted gravel, so it’s mixed with water.
“We’ve had anecdotal reports that people get multiple turtles trying to nest when they put in a new driveway in the area,” she smiles.
At the work bee, equipment spread the gravel which was mixed with water from fire hoses. Then volunteers raked it. It now looks like a driveway or boat launch, but is neither.
Overall, turtles weren’t the only ones to benefit.
“It was a real opportunity for everyone to do something tangible,” Winter said. “The feeling was very positive. Everyone was glad not to be scraping a turtle off the road, and enabling them to procreate and not be disturbed.”