Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Strathcona Park was established in 1911 as the first provincial park in British Columbia; to this day it is the flagship for the entire park system. What happens in Strathcona usually sets precedent for parks throughout the province.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) has requested that BC Parks amend the Master Plan for Strathcona Park to allow horses into the protected lands. CWR would like to build a horse trail 14km into Strathcona Park through the pristine Bedwell Valley to You Creek. There they plan to build tent platforms, corrals, and toilets for their exclusive clients. This camp will be located to provide easy access to Cream Lake and Bedwell Lake. The trail would start at their main resort on Bedwell River at the head of Bedwell Inlet, which is in the heart of Clayoquot Sound.

The general public will not benefit from this deal, since the resort is only accessible at great costs and the price for a stay there is very expensive. 3 Nights=$4,750 or
7 Nights=$9,450. The cost of barging horses from Tofino to the mouth of the Bedwell River, where CWR is located, is $3000 and rising with fuel prices. Last fall a group of hikers from Friends of Strathcona Park paid $500 for a water taxi so that they could hike into the Bedwell Valley. As a result of these costs the proposed horse trail would be for the exclusive use of CWR guests.

BC Parks creates Master Plans for all provincial parks after consultation with the general public as well as groups that represent park users. The policies established in these plans are then upheld by government staff and reviewed publicly every few years. Today the policy from the Master Plan for Strathcona Park clearly states that no horses are allowed in the Bedwell Valley.

One of the main reasons for not allowing horses onto parklands is that they eat hay, which often contains seeds from invasive species resulting in the spread of noxious and exotic plants. Horses can spread the seeds from foreign grasses, thistles, genetically modified canola, alfalfa, clovers, and other non-native plants which then grow into seeding plants. In this way an entire ecosystem can be destroyed because rare native plants can no longer compete with newly introduced species, which spread like wildfire.

The digestive system of a horse can be very slow, allowing seeds to remain inside the stomach for as long as a two weeks. An online report from National Parks in the Austrian Alps states; “Studies have shown horses can retain weed seeds in their gut for up to 14 days and these can then germinate in manure in national parks.” CWR claims they will use sterilized food for the horses, however this is next to impossible to monitor. There are also very few suppliers of sterilized hay and what little is available is extremely expensive.

Other concerns include: soil erosion from steel-shoed horses, trampling and grazing impacts on a delicate ecosystem, and damage to the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes.

The Bedwell Valley is a wilderness that provides habitat year around for Bear, Roosevelt Elk, Cougar, Wolf, and many smaller mammals. It is a safe haven for animals that are hunted everywhere else. Interaction between horses with people and these wild animals is inevitable with a trail that will be frequented by SWR guests. The standard response by BC Fish and Wildlife, when wild animals ‘threaten’ people, is to shoot the animal.

Situated in the heart of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range, Strathcona park was established in part to protect significant and environmentally sensitive areas such as alpine meadows, moss beds, alpine wetlands, snow grass and sub-alpine forest communities. The occasional group of hikers who makes it all the way to the Bedwell Valley will cause very little damage to the environment. Regular groups of multiple horse riders will significantly impact this sensitive ecology. Allowing horses into Strathcona Park may establish a precedent for all parks in BC.

Please let BC Minister of Environment Barry Penner know about your concerns. Phone:
250 387-1187

 PO Box 9047
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2