Matson Conservation Area is in the seaside community of Esquimalt, one of thirteen communities in the Capital Regional District of British Columbia. At nearly one hectare, this nature area hosts about one hundred Garry oak trees Quercus garryana over a steep and rocky slopes. The favorite time to visit this dry rocky area is in the spring when camas, onion grass, chocolate and fawn lilies satin flower and sea blush.
It is thought that the camas lilies were cultivated along these steep rocky slopes by the early locals. The conservation area was created from the larger estate of Mary Dunsmuir, the daughter of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, and her spouse Henry Croft. Their home called Mount Adelaide was built in the eighteen nineties. The house overlooked the steep slopes of the conservation area. Years later the estate was transfer to Sam Matson whose wife, Ada, eventually bestowed it to the Salvation Army in nineteen fifty eight. The home was removed and replaced with the Matson Sunset Lodge, a home for elderly. Again the lodge, removed in the nineteen eighties, overlooked the steep slopes. Presently, the area is overlooked by the Swallow’s Landing condominium complex which replaced the lodge.
There is an aluminum tiered staircase with about one hundred steps that leads from the concrete walkway beside Swallow’s Landing to the foot path along the Victoria Harbor. The staircase is elevated to prevent destruction of the unique flora and provide some unique views of the fauna. Blue herons, Bewick’s wren, downy woodpeckers, hummingbirds, purple martin swallows, river otters, raccoons and many other organisms can be seen with care. Killer whales and seals have been observed in the waters of the harbor. The stairs provide a great workout and are frequented by runners, sport enthusiasts, walkers, hikers and other fitness oriented people. The view is splendid. Take in the frequent float planes that arrive and depart from the harbor, cruise ships, ferries of all sizes and other commercial watercraft. Kayakers, paddle boarders and motorized craft can also be observed as well as many migratory birds. This green space is in the Victoria Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Westsong Walk, Barnard Park and Lugrin Park are nearby.
Geographical Location N48º 26’ 46” W123º 23’ 42”
Matson Conservation Area can be reached from the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy1). Exit onto Tillicum Road to head south. At the junction with Craigflower Road continue to along as the road curves to become Lampson Street. Follow Lampson to Esquimalt Road. Turn left onto Esquimalt Road then turn right onto Dunsmuir Road. Take a left onto Garrett Place and continue to the end of road. Look for the concrete walkway along the wall sign for 845 Dunsmuir apartment complex. There is street parking near the end of the road. Buses travel along Lampson Street.
Additional information on this area can be found on the Habitat Acquisition Trust and Garry Oak Meadow pages.
The book Native Plants for the Coastal Garden has useful information for plant identification as well as the Flora and Fauna of Coastal British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest