- Spring 2013 Newsletter
- Park Protectors Get Their Day in Court
- Fall 2012 Newsletter
- Summer Hikes in the Bedwell Valley
- Park Protectors Take Government to Court
- Spring 2012 Newsletter
- Legal Challenge to CWR Park Use Permit
- SPPAC Recommendations Ignored
- Fall 2011 Newsletter
- Peaceful Direct Action Coalition
- Bedwell Centennial Trail
Spring 2013 Newsletter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friends of Strathcona Park
Box 3404, Courtenay, BC
Canada V9N 5N5
Park Protectors Get Their Day in Court
January 28, 2013 – (Courtenay, B.C)
A case that could break new legal ground and increase protection for provincial parks in British Columbia is set to be heard in BC Supreme Court beginning on February 4th. Initiated by the Friends of Strathcona Park, the judicial review will challenge the authority of the provincial government to ignore the public interest in preserving and protecting parkland in British Columbia.
“This case is about ensuring the Minister of Environment protects the parks for the good of the public,” says Bridget Horel, a spokesperson for the group. “Allowing a private company the exclusive right to bring horses into a wilderness area diminishes the park for all of us.”
The case revolves around the granting of a park use permit to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR), an exclusive private resort. In 2011, CWR was granted a permit to bring guided horse trips into a secluded and pristine wilderness area in Strathcona Park. Friends of Strathcona, in seeking to overturn the permit, is asking the court to find that that the government holds these lands in trust for the public and must make these decisions within that framework.
“British Columbians support the idea that the parks are for the general public,” says Scott Bernstein, lawyer for Friends of Strathcona. “No government has the right to give away rights in a park if it is not in the public interest. Granting rights that only one business and its high-end clients can enjoy at the expense of the environment is certainly not in the public interest”
West Coast Environmental Law is supporting Friends of Strathcona by partially funding this legal challenge. “West Coast agrees with the Friends that decisions about what goes on in Strathcona Park, and other provincial parks, need to focus first and foremost on what’s good for the park, and its ecosystems and recreational users, and not on business interests”, states Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel for West Coast.
The judicial review will be heard in Supreme Court in Vancouver from February 4 -8. The public is welcome to attend.
|For more information contact:|
Fall 2012 Newsletter
Summer Hikes to the beautiful Bedwell Valley
Trip # 1 – Monday, July 30 to Thursday, August 2
Trip #2 – Wednesday, August 29 – Saturday, September 1
Hello friends of Strathcona Park,
The Bedwell Trail has been officially closed by BC Parks for a number of years now, based on unsafe river crossings. Working under a volunteer agreement with BC Parks, we cleared a route from the “condemned” Living Bridge to Sam Craig Creek in 2010. Last year, working under another formal volunteer agreement, we cleared the old trail from Bedwell Lake down to the Ashwood River.
In order to provide safe passage for hikers between those two disconnected trail ends, we flagged the route over the last remaining “hump” to provide continuous guidance from alpine to ocean. For reasons that make sense to them, we have been asked by BC Parks to remove the flagging over that section of the route. While that does not seem sensible to us, in the interest of maintaining a positive working relationship with BC Parks, we have agreed to do that.
So, our first trip in will be a Flag Removal hike, following the beautiful route that we have established. We will be going in via water taxi from Tofino on Monday, July 30th and coming out the same way on Thursday, August 2nd.
We will spend the first night near the Gayle McGee suspension bridge on the river …..a gorgeous camping spot. On day 2, we will carry our gear up to the gravel bar near Sam Craig Creek and set up there for the next two nights. On day 2 we will hike up the valley for a picnic to remove the flagging tape on “the hump”. Day 3 is a day for rest and relaxation on the river. We will hike all the way out and return home on Day 4. The pace for this trip will be leisurely. Hikers need to be in decent physical condition and able to carry all of their own supplies.
The second trip will be a guided hike from alpine to ocean through the entire valley, beginning up at Bedwell Lake and descending to the sea. We will carpool to the Bedwell trailhead on Wednesday, August 29th and come out to Tofino on Saturday, September 1st. As the Bedwell Trail is officially closed, we will be following the route through the vallley that has been established by the Friends. Hikers need to be in good physical condition and able to carry all of their supplies.
As the water taxi service is expensive, and there will be no work requested of participants, we are asking for a contribution of $50 per person to help defray expenses for each trip. We want to show the Bedwell in its summertime glory to as many people as possible.
Please let us know as soon as possible if you can join us, and which trip (or both!) you prefer. If you have any questions at all, please contact me. There will be more detailed information available on logistics for the trips closer to the start dates. We look forward to hiking the wild west side of Strathcona with you!
ph: 250 337 8348
Friends of Strathcona Park
May 24, 2012
Park Protectors Take Government to Court
In a case that could break new legal ground, the Friends of Strathcona Park have filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to challenge the ability and authority of the government of BC to ignore the public’s interest in preserving and protecting natural resources in favour of supporting private business interests.
While the specific case revolves around the granting of a park use permit to an exclusive private resort, allowing horse tours into a wilderness valley within Strathcona Park, it also raises the broader issue of the violation of public trust by government on a broad range of other issues.
“Whether the local issue is the creeping privatization of B.C.’s parks, the sale of BC Rail, the diminishment of health care services, the abdication of environmental assessments, the pressure to construct oil pipelines without consultation, or unprecedented permission for new mining projects, almost every British Columbian can relate directly to a feeling of loss of control over their “commons”, says Kel Kelly, a spokesperson for the Friends’ group.
“We have entered a new era, where the partnership between governments and private interests is so strong that it is rapidly eroding places, natural wonders and ideas that hold a powerful place in the hearts of most British Columbians. Things we have long held as sacred and public are being stolen from under our feet”, says Kelly. “We have no alternative but to challenge these thefts of public assets, both on the ground and in the courts. That is what this case is about.”
The Friends of Strathcona have garnered support from the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF), an initiative of West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), who are dedicated to saving the environment through law. “West Coast agrees with the Friends that decisions about what goes on in Strathcona Park, and other Provincial Parks, need to focus first and foremost on what’s good for the park, and its ecosystems and recreational users, and not on business interests”, states Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel and EDRF Liaison for West Coast.
“We believe we have a strong case here”, says Kelly, noting that the petition to the court is based on strong substantive grounds. “Permission for this park use permit was granted by the government despite overwhelming opposition from every community adjacent to the park, from every public input session and from a wide variety of citizens’ groups.”
The Friends will be arguing that there are limits to Ministerial discretion in granting a permit including that the permit cannot violate the public trust and that the Minister of Environment must consider environmental impacts in granting a permit.
“This is an important case for all of us who want to protect our commons for future generations”, says Kelly. “We feel we have a good chance to win this battle.”
For more information contact:
- Kel Kelly at 250 337-8348 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Marlene Smith 250 337-8220 or email@example.com
- Andrew Gage at 604-684-7378 or Andrew_Gage@wcel.org
Spring 2012 Newsletter
The Spring 2012 issue of our newsletter is out! In it you will find…
- The Park Use Permit and Why Are We Are Going to Court
- BC Parks Volunteer Strategy Workshop – North Island – Feb 28, 2012
- Mount Washington Resort Local Area Plan
- SPPAC Report
- Our Upcoming Annual General Meeting
- FOSP Membership Form
Read it here in pdf format…
Legal Challenge to CWR Park Use Permit
In February 2012 we received a copy of the Park Use Permit for Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts which allows CWR to have exclusive horse use of sections of Strathcona Park. This permit was granted last December in spite of overwhelming opposition from the public for the last four years as expressed through the “public hearings”, Park’s website, letters to the Minister of the Environment (copied to FOSP), position taken by the Strathcona Park Advisory Committee (SPPAC) and letters in the media.
Since we found out about this upsetting, but not unexpected, development we have been preparing our legal challenge. We are in the final stages of preparation, and anticipate the filing of legal documents in April which will commence the action.
We appreciate the support of those who love Strathcona Park and who have written letters opposing this permit. Unfortunately those letters have not been effective. It is necessary to challenge the procedural unfairness and exclusivity of the permit. There is quite a bit of cost involved in this. Our goal is to raise about $15,000 to cover the court proceedings. If you could help us out it would be very much appreciated…
SPPAC Recommendations Ignored
Over twenty years ago a very high profile protest in Strathcona Park saw the first Canadians ever arrested and charged for defending a park. In response a Master Plan was developed and a Government appointed Advisory Committee struck to safeguard that plan.
In 1988 the threat came from mining. But today as a member of the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee (SPPAC) I observe a strange state of affairs. Now it seems, the pre-exisiting mining company operating in Strathcona appears to be the only organization that actually takes the advice of SPPAC seriously. BC Parks has lost sight of why SPPAC was created in the first place: to avoid conflict by providing a substantive opportunity for the public to review and comment on management decisions.
For example, earlier this year, after a grossly-flawed public input process, the Minister of Environment, ignored overwhelming public opposition and the advice of its own advisory committee and approved a park use permit for Clayoquot Wilderness Resort to operate commercial backcountry horse tours in Strathcona Park. The advice of SPPAC was that, despite loose wording, the intent of the Master Plan did not permit horse riding. This was brushed aside and an amendment was made to the Master Plan in direct conflict with the position of the public body charged with safeguarding it.
Adding insult to injury, an inordinate amount of BC Parks staff time and therefore money was allocated to facilitate this application at a time when park infrastructure is rapidly decaying and is neglected due to budget cuts.
Once drafted, the terms of the permit were provided to the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee for comment and ‘advice’. Despite providing valid and reasonable suggestions to modify these terms, for example that the length of the initial permit be reduced from an overly-generous twenty years to ten, the Regional Manager to whom SPPAC ‘advises’ simply rejected every recommendation. This is a worrying breach of BC Parks’ own mission statement that commits to managing our provincial parks in the public trust.
I think, as a committee member representing the public on matters concerning Strathcona Park, that it is important for everyone to know, that it is glaringly apparent that the public has no input whatsoever into the management of our Provincial parks, and that in the case of our oldest park their representation through SPPAC is systematically minimized, short-changed and flat out ignored.
This should come as little surprise as indicated by Premier Clark shrugging off the recommendations of the Strathcona Centennial Expedition: that the Government reaffirm its commitment to manage parks in the public interest.
As the centennial year of BC Parks, 2011, draws to a close it is shameful to report that the glorious legacy left for us one hundred years ago is under direct attack from the very Government responsible for protecting it. I urge readers who value our parks to communicate to our MLA in the strongest terms that they wish their voices to be heard and heeded where conservation and protection is being called for.
Fall 2011 Newsletter
The Fall 2011 issue of our newsletter is out! In it you will find…
- A First Hand Account of Last Summer’s Trail Building, by Ken Van de Burgt
- Additional comments on the trail project, by Karl Stevenson
- The Strathcona Wilderness Festival, by Carol Hunter
- Update on Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Park Use Permit, by Kel Kelly
- Peaceful Direct Action Coalition update, by Kel Kelly
- T-shirt Sales
- An Appeal
- How can we get a higher profile for our parks?, by Marlene Smith
- FOSP and the OCCUPY MOVEMENT, by Jack Welsh
- FOSP Membership Form
Read it here in pdf format…
Peaceful Direct Action Coalition
July 7, 2011 – PRESS RELEASE
Comox Valley coalition to focus on education for peaceful direct action as a democratic responsibility.
We perceive our Comox Valley community, the communities of British Columbia and the communities of the nation of Canada to be in grave danger. The danger threatens our long term economic, social and environmental health, the three pillars of sustainability:
The danger comes in the form of eroding economic equality, devastated social programs, attacks on working peoples’ rights and unfettered environmental damage. It comes in the form of privatization of public resources, diminished civil rights, a lack of accountability to the citizenry and an ever-deepening corporate /government partnership that is moving our elected officials farther and farther away from serving community interests.
There is a new mythology that is emerging as a result of decades of effort, and that mythology is being perceived as being true. It includes such myths as:
- “If it’s legal, it’s okay”
- “As long as we ‘mitigate’, we can do as we please”
- “Pretending to hear the people is the same as listening to what they are saying”
- “The economy is the cornerstone of everything”
- “Citizen input comes only from special interest groups”
- “Peaceful direct action is terrorism”
There are many more myths that are being manufactured to support the agenda of our governments and corporations, and like all of those listed above, a moment of serious reflection reveals that they are not true.
According to Socrates, the original democratic thinker, only just laws are deemed worthy of compliance; otherwise, he said, the citizen has a duty to obey a higher authority. Disobedience of the law, he stated, is justified by appealing to the principle of necessity.
Slavery, residential schools, apartheid, military invasions, voting rights only for men, head taxes, DDT, the Vietnam war, the use of chemical weapons, discrimination based on gender, skin colour or sexual orientation were all legal in their day. That does not mean they were ever just or fair. Most of these “legal” abominations were overcome by careful, considerate, peaceful means, including the practice of peaceful direct action.
British Columbia can claim a proud history of successful direct action campaigns. From Ginger Goodwin and his work for miners’ rights in Cumberland to the suffragette movement, to the century-long struggle of the Doukhobors, to the Critical Mass bicycle protests on the streets of Vancouver today, British Columbians have spoken out and acted repeatedly against unjust laws.
In the environmental movement, the arrest and detention of 64 brave souls in Strathcona Park in 1988 led to the creation of statute parks in the province. The arrest and detention of more than 800 people in the “Clayoquot Summer” of 1993 ultimately brought a measure of environmental sanity and some “peace in the woods” for a prolonged period of time.
Over the last 20 years governments and corporations, working together, have methodically clawed back these victories and made significant efforts to turn our society away from genuine citizen participation and input. These days, once again, citizens and their opinions, are seen as obstacles to progress, and barriers to unfettered economic growth. The other two pillars of sustainability – social and environmental considerations – are once again being ignored. Therefore, once again, we believe it is time to mobilize the citizenry of British Columbia to take a strong, peaceful stand against the imbalanced and unfair practices of our governments.
Three coal mines in our beautiful community make no sense. A new gas station in the heart of our estuary makes no sense. The gutting of social programs for our most vulnerable citizens makes no sense. Turning our provincial park system over to private corporations makes no sense. Yet, despite every effort by our community to work within “the system” to prevent these things, they are all proceeding anyway.
Countless thousands of volunteer hours have been spent preparing briefs, doing research, attending meetings, participating at open houses, forums and public hearings. We can never be accused of not having worked hard within “the system”. Most of this input has been ignored or overruled. We believe that the only thing left to us is to follow Socrates direction to fulfill our democratic duty to work against unfair and unjust laws and practices.
We will work as a coalition to provide education on peaceful direct action in our Comox Valley community. We hope to mobilize hundreds of citizens to relearn that peaceful direct action is a fundamental democratic right, to remember that when governments are ignoring the will of the people, it is our responsibility to react strongly, collectively and peacefully.
We know that we are far from alone. We are well aware that many others in our community and across British Columbia are also at the end of their patience. We invite other Comox Valley groups, organizations and individual citizens to join us and encourage other communities across the province to organize similar coalitions of their own.
It is time for us to stand up, and stand up together.
- Friends of Strathcona Park
- Comox Valley Water Watch
- Sierra Club Comox Valley
- Council of Canadians
- World Community Development Education Society
- Coal Watch Comox Valley Society
- Comox Valley Peace Group
Bedwell Centennial Trail
GPS track of the trail/route from Bedwell Lake trailhead to Bedwell Inlet (approx 34 km).
The Bedwell Valley Trail, or Bedwell Centennail Trail as we call it to mark the 100th anniversary of Strathcona Park, runs from Bedwell Lake in the alpine to the head of Bedwell Inlet, a distance of 28 kms. The original trail was constructed by the Friends in the early 1990′s, and generally followed a logging road dating from the 1960′s when the valley was logged. The road has now been washed away in many places, and a critical bridge over the Bedwell River (the Living Bridge) has been condemned by BC Parks, resulting in the trail being closed for the past few years.
In 2009, the Friends embarked on a multi-year project to re-open the trail.
- Phase I: In October 2009, the Gayle McGee swing bridge was re-anchored and re-tensioned.
- Phase II: In August 2010, 4.5 km of new trail was brushed out from the Living Bridge to Sam Craig Creek.
- Phase III: In August 2011, 11 km of old trail was refurbushed from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek.
- Phase IV: In 2012, to complete the trail, the 5 km route between Sam Craig and Ashwood Creeks, and the old road from the swing bridge to the Living Bridge, would need to be brushed out.
For reasons best known to BC Parks, we were not allowed to brush out the route from Sam Craig to Ashwood Creeks in Phase III. However 10 of us did the entire trip from the Bedwell Lake trailhead on Jim Mitchell Lake Road to Bedwell Inlet, and then on to Tofino via water taxi. The whole trail/route is well flagged, and could easily be done in 3 days. WARNING This is a seasonal trip only, best done in July through September when water levels are low. If heavy rain is encountered enroute, you may be stranded between impassable streams for a day or two. There are logs over most streams, but they can also be waded when conditions warrant.
Big Interior Mtn from Bedwell Lake
Doran Falls, upper Bedwell River
Slide from Big Interior Mtn.
Elk cow near slide
Trail along old road
Bedwell River bar
Mariner Mtn. from Bedwell River