Established in 1995, Gowlland Tod was dedicated under the Commonwealth Heritage Legacy Program, which was created to commemorate the spirit of the XV Commonwealth Games held in Victoria in 1994. Comprising more than 1,200 hectares, the park is a result of a unique partnership between the provincial and local governments, organizations and companies. The focus of this park is the preservation of green space on southern Vancouver Island for present and future generations.
The long history of settlement on Finlayson Arm is evident from the many archaeological village and midden sites found here. There is continuing importance of this area to First Nations for medicinal, ceremonial and spiritual values. An early copper mine, Vancouver Portland Cement Company (later developed as Butchart Gardens), the Caleb Pike homestead and an extensive network of old logging and mining roads are testament to the early pioneer settlement in the area.
The range of habitats and the waters of the inlet, the shoreline, Tod Creek and uplands support a diversity of wildlife. More than 150 individual plant and animal species have been identified here. Nine identified species at risk, including the phantom orchid, white rein orchid and Peale’s peregrine falcon, can be found in the park. Pockets of Garry oak forest, recognized as one of the most imperiled ecosystems in Canada, are located throughout the park. The rugged highlands of the Gowlland Range preserve rare, coastal Douglas fir and arbutus trees.
Blue herons, bald eagles, river otters, black-tailed deer and red squirrels frequent this area, as well as black bear and cougar.