Friday, March 21, 2008



Using dynamite to blast the trunks of trees into smithereens may make falling a 600-year-old Douglas fir safer for the humans doing the work. That’s is the contention of the workers compensation board with regards to the contractors working for BC Parks and the Ministry of Environment in Cathedral Grove. According to media reports there are 9 danger trees that must be felled in order to make it safe for tourists to walk on the paths in the Provincial Park.

Spring is here, birds are nesting, Elk are in the valley with calves, and small animals are giving birth to their young. A tour of the area, with parks manager Dave Foreman and several key participants in the falling, revealed that more like 40-50 old growth trees would be blasted along paths, the highway corridor, and anywhere BC Parks identified as a threat. There will be no straight cuts left by chainsaws so the counting will be difficult.

Parks have always been designed by human beings for humans, and when their needs change so do the parameters of the parks. However there is a point where parks are altered by humans to the point that they no longer reflect the nature that they were designed to preserve.

Strathcona Park, the first and oldest BC Provincial Park established in 1911, has been dissected and compromised over the last century. Logging, highways, and mining have been allowed to alter the integrity of this park. Portions of the initial parkland have been pulled out of the protected area by government and sold or traded to logging companies.

Parks can also play a key role in rehabilitating a compromised ecosystem while providing recreational and educational opportunities for the public. A prime example locally is the Englishman River Regional Park, which runs upstream from Top Bridge to Morrison Creek. Officially opened to the public last fall by the Regional District of Nanaimo, the Nature Trust of British Columbia, and several other partners this park includes second and third growth trees ranging in age from freshly planted to approximately 50 years old depending on the age of the cut block. The park compliments the Salmon Enhancement Project, Englishman River Watershed Recovery Plan, and several other rehabilitation projects along the Englishman River. This park combines public needs with restoration presenting many opportunities through stream keepers and other groups that help to educate the public.

The needs of people and nature are interwoven and continue to be linked but society tends to try managing nature in order to tame it. Controlling nature may seem like a practical solution to societies fear of the wild but managing parks for people tends to compromise nature to the point that is destroyed. The BC Parks Act makes no bones about the fact that most parks, with the exception of certain components of a class “A” park, have been set aside for the public to use for recreational purposes.

Carmanah Provincial park, directly across the Island from Oceanside due south on the west coast, was protected in 1989 and the lower Walbran Valley was added in 1991. The public demanded this protection to save some of the last ancient temperate rainforest as well as to establish a reserve for the Marbled Murrelet to nest.

Logging has continued all around the Carmanah/Walbran park and today the clear-cuts run directly along the boundaries. All access to the park is on industrial logging roads and when the trees licensed for logging are gone from the companies that built these roads will have no reason to maintain them. In fact, 2 years ago TimberWest threatened to remove a key bridge so they could move it to another location. Already, the roads entering the park are in such bad shape that it discourages the public from visiting. With fewer and fewer visitors the government is already beginning to grumble that the primary purpose for a park is to provide the public with recreational opportunities. Industry has already built the roads in and would like to continue logging. Where is this leading? No people in the parks, unused timber just standing there rotting, roads in place, need for economic stability in a declining forest industry…

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