Friday, November 16, 2007


I just walked through the ‘not-a-clear-cut’ logged area between Qualicum Beach and Coombs. The second growth forest, once considered a buffer from previous logging, has just been leveled. ‘Single stem variable retention logging’ at its finest. Like sentinels left standing on a bleak and desolate landscape, a few deformed trees remain. A jumble of stumps, exposed root-balls, shattered trunks, branches, and exposed ground cover are all that remain.

Water from Hamilton Marsh flows directly into this wasteland on its way into French Creek. Heavy rains are flushing the silt, mud, and debris exposed by this logging operation into the tributaries of French Creek. Down stream are salmon enhancement projects, community water intakes, housing for thousands, and banks subject to erosion and collapse when run-off swells the creek.

This area is owned by Island Timberlands, which is owned by Brascan, which has changed its name to Brookfield. This “Global Asset Management Company” has just come out of a long strike with local forestry workers. Having logged this area they will be selling the land to a real-estate firm. In order for the unnamed developers to sub-divide and sell this land for residential and commercial uses they will have to apply to the Regional District of Nanaimo for rezoning permits to take this land out of its forest management designation. This will likely be approved unless the public takes a stand.

According to the Official Community Plan, established by the RDN and dedicated members of this community, this land is specifically reserved for forest management. The logged area closest to the Inland Highway is part of the RDN Area “G” while the clear-cut along what was once the ‘Coombs cut-off’ is in Area “F.” Rezoning would have to be approved by the RDN Board of Directors, which includes both local mayors.

The forest around Hamilton Marsh is also owned by Island Timberlands, which recently rejected a fair market value offer from the Regional District of Nanaimo in partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada to purchase the land and protect it as park. Based on the direction Brookfield is taking, all forestland in the area will be logged and sold to real estate developers.

The provincial governments - the NDP initiated this legislation and the BC Liberals boast they have completed the task - claim they have protected 12% of the land base as parks. However, the majority of people living on Vancouver Island are concentrated along a thin corridor along the east coast from Campbell River south. In that area less than 7% of the land has been protected as parks. The primary reason is because industry and private people own most of the land.

All of the land between Victoria and Courtney along the East Coast of Vancouver Island, along with all land West to a line that runs between Port Renfrew and Port Alberni, is privately owned. In 1884 Prime Minister John A. Macdonald convinced coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir to build the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, something he had promised the citizens of British Columbia in order for them to join confederation in 1871. The government in Ottawa paid Dunsmuir $750,000 cash and 2.1 million acres of land on Vancouver Island along with all mineral rights.

Over the years the E&N lands were sold to small and large companies as well as to private individuals. As a result this entire Dunsmuir land area is not accessible to the general public and remains out of the jurisdiction of all levels of government. Most streams, lakes and swamps on the east side the island are held privately, including the bed of the water body.

One way out of this land squeeze is to limit re-zoning of land to that of the OCP. As it stands, the land Island Timberlands has logged is not zoned for housing or commercial development. Should they decide to ‘donate’ the entire forest around Hamilton Marsh to the RDN as a park, then their development firms may have a chance for re-zoning. Until then the limitation of forestland remains in place.

Contact Electoral Area “F” Director Lou Biggemann and Area “G” Director Joe Stanhope at Regional District of Nanaimo 6300 Hammond Bay Road Nanaimo, BC V9T 6N2 as well as Community Planning 954-3798 E-mail:

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Oceanside prides itself on the fact that it is located along some of the finest beaches in British Columbia. People from around the world come here to enjoy the coastline and many of them retire here after multiple vacations. As a result the population is growing rapidly and demands on the shoreline have increased.

Parksville Beach has changed a great deal since I graduated from high school. Over time pavement, fences, grass fields, and blasted rock have taken over from the natural aquatic grass and sand. A hovercraft, operating from the coast guard station at the end of the point, regularly drove out over a flat beach at low tide and launched itself into the water. Today a massive gravel bar has emerged just off shore from this same point.

According to some experts the erosion of the Parkville’s shoreline may be the result of tidal and storm pressures being deflected into the bay by this large gravel bar. As a result the city has installed sections of blasted rock to prevent the paved road from being washed away. The City of Parksville is considering more changes to the shoreline in an attempt to stop this type of erosion.

The main change to that section of coastline is the massive blasted rock causeway built by Surfside RV Resort, dividing the Englishman River Estuary Floodplains from the Strait of Georgia. Man made changes to the natural coastline effect the flow of water by redirecting tidal and storm surges. All along the coast private land owners have installed dikes, concrete walls, and other barricades in order to alter the natural erosion of the shoreline.

An area known as the ‘Queen’s Land’ along all waterways was once protected from development but today it is very easy to obtain a license which allows property owners to alter the coast. Governments at all levels have abandoned the protection of the shoreline in exchange for increased tax revenue from expensive waterfront properties. However, there remains a legal right of way along all waterways which is accessible to the general public which can not legally be blockaded by private property owners because the ‘Queen’s land’ belongs to all citizens of Canada.

In September the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia announced that it had been awarded a grant of $100,000 by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia for the Green Shores sustainability project. With a focus on social and economic development, the Green Shores Project aims to promote healthy coast and marine ecosystems by planning a design while working to benefit the environmental. It provides positive examples for property owners, developers and design professionals to address environmental and sustainability issues associated with increased waterfront development. Unfortunately, as a non-profit society it cannot enforce it’s recommendations but does provide information and tools to assess shoreline property and habitat protection.

“The need for sustainable approaches to waterfront development in the Georgia Basin and Strait of Georgia is accentuated by unprecedented residential and commercial growth,” said Project Coordinator Patrick Walshe. “Frequently we try to immobilize shorelines with cookie cutter solutions, yet too often this destabilizes the shore and its ecosystems, jeopardizing our coastal resources as well as the beauty and character of our coastal communities. There are many green alternatives in our tool kit, which can be catered to solve site specific issues more effectively.”

The project team will help to educate land managers, designers, planners, developers and builders working on ocean front development on Vancouver Island and the Georgia Basin, in an effort to develop alternative design concepts.
For more information visit the Green Shores website at