Fall 2019 Newsletter

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Spring 2019 Newsletter

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Fall 2018 Newsletter

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Spring 2018 Newsletter

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Fall 2017 Newsletter

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Spring 2017 Newsletter

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Fall 2016 Newsletter

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Spring 2016 Newsletter

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Alpine to Ocean Adventure – Bedwell Hikes

The Friends of Strathcona Park will be hosting a hike for the public through the beautiful Bedwell Valley this summer. The hike, which will take five days and four nights, will follow a wild route through the valley which was discovered by the Friends several years ago. The hike will take place from August 1st to 5th.

“This is one of only three valleys within the park that go from the alpine all the way out to the ocean”, says Kel Kelly, a director with the Friends. “The other two valleys, the Megin and the Moyeha, are much more difficult to access than the Bedwell.”

The hike will require two groups, one coming down the valley from Bedwell Lake and another coming up from the Pacific, launching at Tofino. The groups will meet halfway, exchanging car keys to allow everyone to get back home. “We’ve done this trip several times already”, says Kelly, “and it’s always fun when the two groups meet and share stories of their adventures going up and down.”

The Bedwell route goes through a variety of fascinating ecosystems, including alpine meadows, a rare high elevation maple forest, old growth cedar and fir groves and past several magnificent waterfalls. The river itself is never far away. Swimming at the end of a hot day of hiking is an exhilaration beyond description. Hikes with the Friends are renowned for their camaraderie and fun.

There are still spaces available. Hikers must be experienced and fit and are expected to carry everything they need for shelter, food, clothing and comfort in their backpack. The trip, which usually takes four days, has been extended to five to allow more time for enjoying the scenery. Participants will be asked to cover the costs of transportation, including the water taxi in and out of Tofino.

“We encourage anyone who is fit and eager to come with us to see one of the most beautiful places on the planet”, says Kelly.

For more information contact:

Kel Kelly at 778 992 0246 or at kelkelly55@yahoo.ca.
Jack Welsh at 250 334 2321 or jackw_1@telus.net

Spring 2015 Newsletter

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Best of the Fest’ Vancouver International Mountain Film Tour

Strathcona Wilderness Institute Society is hosting the ‘Best of the Fest’ in Courtenay on March 20 and Campbell River on March 27 as part of their outreach & fundraising initiatives. SWI is a non-profit society which operates the two summer information centres in Strathcona Park: at Buttle Lake between Campbell River & Gold River; and at Paradise Meadows near the Comox Valley; where they organize nature talks, walks & hikes for the public. For details see http://strathconapark.org/.

Stewards of the Future

The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, is proud to introduce Stewards of the Future: an exciting new high-school and youth initiative.

The province-wide program supports young British Columbians in exploring their own communities, discovering and documenting unique attributes, identifying and researching key issues of concern, and investigating stewardship initiatives.

Please forward this to any educators, youth organizations, or conservations organizations you think would be interested.

Fall 2014 Newsletter

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Bedwell Trail Update, August 2014

Unfortunately, someone has recently removed most of the ribbons marking the Bedwell Centennial Trail. The identity of this “someone” isn’t hard to guess. As long as the Centennial Trail exists and is being used and enjoyed by hikers, it hurts the government claim that a commercial trail is necessary. Obviously a trail CAN be created for non-commercial reasons by non-commercial park users. At the present time, despite the removal of many ribbons, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is still usable, and it’s still being used, but it’s not as easy to follow over its entire length as it was when the ribbons were in place. The trail also needs some maintenance clipping in spots where salmon berry bushes have put out new growth. Until improvements are made, it’s not a trail for less savvy hikers. Hopefully this will be a temporary situation.

For me, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is, and always has been, a political trail. Ever since the government opened the valley to logging, then dumped it from the park “because it had no park value because it had been logged,” then were forced to return it to the park after the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, I’ve enjoyed watching the Bedwell Valley gradually healing itself from the massive commercial impacts which have been inflicted upon it.

In the years since the Bedwell was clear-cut logged, it’s felt very good to look down from the surrounding heights and see the forces of nature steadily working to destroy the old logging bridges and large sections of the defunct logging road. It’s been good for my spirit to watch the valley gradually covering the huge, ugly logging scars with new trees. I’ve enjoyed thinking that perhaps, if we left it alone for a few hundred years, the Bedwell Valley might once again become what it was; a beautiful, wild, west coast rainforest valley, with wolves, bears, and herds of elk free to carry out their lives, without being messed about by humans.

The Bedwell Valley, like most of Strathcona Park, has endured a rough history. After having spent most of my life in the park trying to ignore industrial garbage, blast holes, logging slashes, logged and dammed lakes, discarded fuel drums, entire abandoned mining camps with tons of rusting machinery leaking various fluids, it’s become obvious to me that the government idea of the purpose of Strathcona Park is much different than mine. Governments pretend otherwise for political reasons, but their actions (and the garbage, clear-cuts, and other gruesome reminders) speak for themselves.

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that almost every government action, since Strathcona Park was created in 1911, has been directed toward opening the park to commercial and industrial interests. The physical damage is plainly seen in almost every corner of the park. Historically, whenever someone produced a scheme for making money from the park, governments have always been quick to open the way.

This happened recently when government altered the Strathcona Park Master Plan to allow a commercial operation into the Bedwell Valley. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) wanted to extend their dude ranch operation into the park, and petitioned the government for permission. The resort wanted to build a high-impact horse trail into the Bedwell for the use of their clients. A foot trail already existed, but it had been closed by the government because a vital link in the trail (the last remaining logging bridge across the Bedwell River) was on the verge of collapsing into the river.

Leaving aside the question of whether the proposed high-impact trail was needed or wanted by anyone but the resort, the government said the resort proposal was the only feasible way to make a trail in the Bedwell. Building and maintaining the trail and the vital bridge, government said, was too expensive – the government said it had no funds for parks – and impossible for volunteers.

This was the government line, but non-commercial park users thought otherwise. They believed that, after years of commercial abuse, the valley deserved to be free from high-impact commercial operations. They agreed with the Strathcona Park Master Plan which (even after it was altered by the government to open the way for the resort/dude ranch proposal) held that Minimal Human Impact was an essential guiding principle for Strathcona Park.

I believe that the government was mostly wrong, but they were right that huge bridges like the one the loggers needed (and a horse trail would require) are very costly, probably too costly for volunteers. But a volunteer built trail was far from impossible. The solution was actually quite simple. The volunteer trail builders figured it out quickly. There was no need for a volunteer trail to cross the river. Voila. If the trail doesn’t cross the river, a costly, intrusive bridge becomes unnecessary and irrelevant. After weeks of intensive scouting, volunteers laid out a scenic route which skirted numerous bluffs and other obstacles, and stayed on the southeast side of the Bedwell River, all the way from Bedwell Lake to the Strathcona Park boundary. Downstream from the park, not far from the ocean, the trail makes one river crossing, on an existing bridge.

As I said earlier, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is a political trail. Stopping governments isn’t easy, as many of us learned during the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, but sometimes it’s possible. The Bedwell Trail was built in an effort to stop the government from opening the Bedwell Valley to yet another intrusive commercial enterprise. Despite the government line, it’s not necessary to invite high-impact commercial operations into the park. Volunteers CAN build a trail in the Bedwell. They did it. The trail is there. Of course the government (or someone connected with government – isn’t transparency wonderful?) would like it gone. As long as the trail exists and is being used by the public, it shows that (despite the government line) it’s not necessary to allow a commercial outfit to build a high-impact commercial trail into the park for commercial purposes. The Bedwell Centennial Trail (or Alpine to Ocean Trail, call it what you will) is a practical, low-impact, non-commercial, easily maintained trail, and it’s entirely built by volunteers and hasn’t cost the public a cent. So far, unfortunately, the trail hasn’t achieved its political objective, but who knows?

Meanwhile, for those who feel so inclined, it might be helpful to send your thoughts on the situation to wherever (or whomever) you think will do the most good. Remember, letters sent to government are never seen again. If you do the work of writing a letter, please use it fully. Send it where it might be seen by others. Send it to newspapers, etcetera, as well as government. There’s a list of possible recipients on the FOSP web-site. I thank you. Karl Stevenson.

Spring 2014 Newsletter

Read it here…

Trip and Action in Victoria on Wednesday May 14

The Friends are taking part in an action to present Environment Minister Mary Polak, NDP Environment Critic Spencer Chandra Herbert, and Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver with the 166,000 signature SumOfUs petition to keep BC’s parks free of industrial activity. Meeting time will be 9:30am on the steps of the legislature with the presentation to be at 10:00.

Other groups taking part include The Wilderness Committee, CPAWS, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Forest Ethics, BC Wildlife, BC Nature, and the Suzuki Foundation. Speakers will be Peter Woods(CPAWS), Gwen Barlee(WC), and Kel Kelly(FOSP)

You can still sign the petition to the BC Government… “Keep BC’s parks free of industrial activity! Revoke the Park Amendment Act immediately.” at http://action.sumofus.org/a/bc-parks-open-oil-gas-mining/

Bill 4: Major downgrade for BC Parks

The Government of British Columbia has opened the door to industrial development of BC Parks by downgrading their protection in the BC Parks Act. Parks occupy only 14% of BC, but apparently that is too much to be left alone. The premier and her government are looking for ways to make it easier for industry to build pipelines for transportation of Tar Sands diluted bitumen from Alberta to Asian markets, and natural gas from fracking in north-east BC. Other activities such as mining and logging could now be possible as well. If a park is in the way, then too bad. Bill 4, the act that enables this downgrade, was rushed through without public debate.

Currently a Park Use Permit must pass the test of the “protection of provincial protected areas and the integrity of their associated ecological, recreational and cultural values”. Bill 4 downgrades this protection by allowing the Minister of the Environment to issue a permit for research related to constructing pipelines, mines, or other industrial developments. If the research proves favourable to industry and government then park boundaries could be altered to accommodate the project.

Please add your voice against this Bill 4 and the Park Boundary Adjustment policy. Here are two online polls you could add your name to:

Newsletter feedback on the role of volunteers

In our last newsletter we asked, “What is your opinion of the role of volunteers in B.C. Parks?” The comments we received follow this paragraph. These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of FOSP directors, but simply are a representation of our membership’s responses.

  • Love that there are volunteers – act as “observers/watchdogs”. And sad that our gov’ts have forsaken the support of the most critical value – namely healthy environment.
  • As always, the labour of love done by volunteers makes my heart soar! Thank you FOSP.
  • OK if strictly controlled and for public use.
  • Their role is increasingly important as we see more provincial cut to BC Parks.
  • Please continue the never-ending work of park protection and wilderness preservation.
  • I’m too old to participate myself, but hooray for other people!
  • They do a great job. Maybe they should have expanded roles due to gov’t cutbacks on Park Rangers.
  • We hiked Bedwell Lke trail for the first time this year and were full of appreciation and admiration for how well the trail had been maintained. We gather this was done by generous and hardy volunteers. It’s fortunate there are such volunteers to help the Park, but really the BC gov’t should be investing funds and manpower to at least support the volunteers. This park is a huge asset for the citizens of BC and visitors from elsewhere, and deserves provincial funding.
  • Volunteers add so much to the quality of experience of the parks. However, volunteer energy can lag due to burnout and lack of support. There should be more government support for the BC Parks system and there should be designated wilderness areas – no commercial recreation activities in these areas.
  • I haven’t given it much thought, but it might be a good idea if the government hired students to do some of the work.
  • Volunteers connect the community to the Parks. I think there is more room for volunteers in the Parks.
  • Absolutely critical – through reduced funding, the Provincial Government through the parks service has allowed our once magnificent Park system to become second rate.

Fall 2013 Newsletter

Read it here…

Ranger Cabin Proposal

As you may know the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee and BC Parks are currently discussing a proposal by the Alpine Club of Canada to manage and maintain the existing Ranger Cabin on the Plateau to provide backcountry accommodation and day-use facilities for the general public. Below you will find the BC Parks Request for Information and the Conditional Support of FOSP Directors. We encourage you to respond to the Request for Information with your own thoughts and concerns.

BC Parks Request for Information

Strathcona Park, Forbidden Plateau Ranger Cabin

BC Parks and the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee have been approached by the non-profit Alpine Club of Canada with a proposal to manage the ranger cabin on Forbidden Plateau as a fully accessible public facility. The cabin is located near Hairtrigger Lake, 6.5km from the Nordic Lodge and 10.5km from Mt. Albert Edward.

The cabin is currently only used sporadically by park staff and the park maintenance contractor. The Alpine Club of Canada is proposing to manage the cabin for both day-use as well as reservable overnight accommodation, potentially all year. The building accommodates approximately 8-10 beds. Estimated overnight visits/persons 100 (winter/spring), 210 (summer), 40 (fall). Provincial backcountry fees would apply for overnight use while day-use would be free or by donation.

As this facility is government owned, BC Parks is seeking public input prior to considering this proposal,. Your comments are requested on the following:

  1. Do you support the management of the existing government owned Ranger Cabin as a publicly accessible accommodation and day-use facility?
  2. Do you support the transfer of building management (by way of a park use permit) to an independent operator, i.e. Alpine Club of Canada (Vancouver Island Chapter) or other non-profit group?
  3. Do you have any specific concerns (i.e. Environmental, Social, Safety Related) regarding such a proposal?

Please send all responses by October 15, 2013 to Andy Smith, BC Parks, 1812 Miracle Beach Drive, Black Creek, BC, V9J1K1 or email (preferred) andy.smith@gov.bc.ca

Responses will be shared with the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee members who will consider and discuss all comments prior to providing the BC Parks West Coast Regional Director with any further recommendations.

Conditional Support of FOSP Directors

The Friends of Strathcona Park directors decided to support this proposal with the following conditions:

  1. A Level 2 Parks Assessment will be done before proceeding. Issues such as sewage disposal, water supply, condition of building, impact on sensitive areas, and transportation of supplies need to be addressed.
  2. The general public has equal access opportunities to the hut with no preference given to the ACC or any other group. No group should be able to monopolize the use of the cabin.
  3. The PUP is not transferable. It will only be granted to the ACC.
  4. No preference will be given for commercial use over public use.
  5. There can be no transfer of management to a commercial operator.
  6. The question of Parks using other groups to repair deteriorating facilities in return for the use of an area or facility needs to be addressed. The lack of proper funding for maintenance is leading to this practice.
  7. The regular parks fee schedule should apply to this facility.
  8. Must comply with the Park Act and Regulations.

Charles Turner, 1950-2013

The recent tragic death of Charles Turner shocked us. Charles supported our efforts to keep Strathcona Park wild by volunteering for trail building in the Bedwell Valley, and now continues his support posthumously. Thank you Charles, rest in peace…

Obituary (from the Comox Valley Echo, August 30, 2013)

TURNER, Charles May 20, 1950- August 16, 2013 . Charles Turner was born in London, England on the 20th May, 1950. He passed away on Friday the 16th of August, 2013 doing what he loved. We are comforted to know that his last act was to try and reach out to press the emergency button. Charles began his interest in the outdoors growing up in England and camping in Wales with his family. He traveled the world, climbing mountains and sharing his passion. Charles accomplishments in mountaineering included successful assents of Aconcagua and Mount Kilimanjaro; climbing all mountains over 6000 feet on Vancouver Island; completing all 20 lifetime climbing objectives with the Island Mountain Ramblers and completing the Island Qualifiers with the Alpine Club of Canada. He had many adventures including skiing and climbing Baffin Island in the winter and phoning home from Nepal to ask if he needed to bring his skis, broken by a yak rolling on them in the Himalayas, to show the insurance company. Charles was an inspiration and a hero, especially to young people and his kids; introducing many to the joys of the outdoor world. He was an expert mountaineer, telemark skier and amazing and loving father. He will be eternally missed by his two children, Joe and Maddy, his son-in-law, Tim and all his family and friends. We miss you Charles and we will always love you. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten. Charles would like to continue inspiring people to enjoy the outdoors so if you would like to commemorate him, please send a donation to the Friends of Strathcona Park in his name.

2013 Bedwell River Trip Report

From August 4th – 8th, 2013 twenty-four participants backpacked the Bedwell Valley in Strathcona Park on the newly completed Bedwell Centennial Trail. There were two groups of 12, one travelling from ocean to alpine led by Kel Kelly and Karl Stevenson, and the other from alpine to ocean led by Carol Hunter and Bob St.John.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather… sunny and warm every day, with only a bit of fog in the valley near the sea, and only then in the early morning.

Log of the Alpine to Ocean Group:

Sunday, Aug 4

Both groups met at the Driftwood Mall at 8 am to organize car pools. The vehicles were arranged so that drivers would be coming home in their own vehicles at the end of the trip. (This meant of course that the 2 groups would have to meet on the trail to exchange keys!).

After a few stops along the way, we were finally hiking up the Bedwell Lake Trail. As this section of the trip would be the most gruelling as far as elevation gain goes, we took our time, stopping frequently for water breaks. We also had swim breaks at Baby Bedwell and Bedwell Lakes. The water was refreshing but warm.

The Bedwell Centennial Trail heads south from the information sign at the Bedwell Lake campground. The trail was established by the Friends of Strathcona Park in the early 1990’s, and has in recent years been improved by the Friends, mainly to avoid crossing the Bedwell River at Ashwood Creek and at the Living Bridge.

After heading down the trail for a short distance we arrived at our first campsite on a rocky bluff overlooking Oinimitis Lake. Water was plentiful from the infant Bedwell River cascading over small waterfall nearby. From this perch we had excellent views of Big Interior Mountain and of the upper Bedwell Valley down which we would be travelling the following day.

Baby Bedwell Lake with Mt Tom Taylor

Oinimitis Lake with Big Interior Mtn

Monday, Aug 5

This day, and for the rest of the trip, we were all up by 7am and on the trail before 9. Our first obstacle was the K2 Creek crossing. Normally, walking or scooching across the two cedar logs would not be worth mentioning, except for the fact that the crossing is at the crest of a waterfall of considerable height. Needless to say we all made it across, with many photos and a movie to bear witness.

Three waterfalls were up next: Doran Falls (named after two brothers who helped build the original trail), Cliff Hanger Falls, and Appreciation Falls (named in appreciation for all the trail builders). They all provided an excuse to stop and cool off in their spray.

The avalanche slide should have been the next point of interest, only this day its absence was notable. A low snow winter (or actually a more normal snowfall winter) didn’t produce the huge snow slide that we have seen in the past 3 years. A lone remaining chunk of hard-packed snow remained, perhaps left over from the previous year. As we rested nearby, it too was literally falling apart.

The large grove of impressive maples below the slide still amazed everyone. The only grove like it in the entire valley, no-one had a convincing theory for its origin… sometimes you just have to accept that nature has its secrets and it is best just to enjoy them.

An old logging road built in the early 1960’s starts below the maples. While overgrown and washed out in places, it still provides an easily followed route. At the confluence of You Creek and the Bedwell River we made our second camp. A game of 2 truths and a lie provided entertainment in the evening.

Relaxing in the Maples

Tuesday, Aug 6

The trail follows the old road to Ashwood Creek with one major detour around a washout. The Ashwood provides for another good place to camp, although this day we used it for a relaxing break. We were a bit surprised to meet a group of 8 army reservists heading up the trail from whence we came. They seemed to be a very determined group… perhaps on a secret mission.

Both Ashwood and You Creeks were low, and the crossings were simple… merely rock hopping in most cases. If the streams had been high due to off-season travel or a rainstorm, then logs would have to be used in the crossings.

From Ashwood Creek to the Living Bridge the old road crosses to the north side of the Bedwell River. Our recently build trail stays on the south side, thereby avoiding the two river crossings. While this part of the trail has some ups and downs, the rewards are great views of the surrounding mountains (Mariner, Tom Taylor, Big Interior, Ursus, and Cotter) and varying vegetation zones.

After leaving Ashwood Creek we left the shores of the Bedwell and ascended to the Notch, and entered a grove of old growth forest missed somehow by the logging company. This relatively small stand of 500 year old cedar and fir reminds us of the folly by BC Parks of selling the timber in the valley in the 1960’s.

At Sundew Lake we met up with the second group that was led by Kel and Karl. Here we spent time trading stories and experiences, and had the all important exchange of car keys!

For the rest of the day we were basically following the Bedwell; passing through the Blaney Creek swampy area, by a good gravel bar for swimming, and on to Sam Craig Creek with its mining era relics scattered about. Just past this creek, and over a small hill we came to our 3rd camp on a very nicely situated gravel bar.

Some excitement happened around 2am when we were all awakened by an animal making loud calls from across the river. Its eyes could be discerned reflected in our headlamps. The initial thought was that it was a cougar, but internet research by Carol suggests it may have been a descendent of foxes who escaped captivity long ago.

Bedwell River with Mt Mariner

Mountain tarn

Wednesday, Aug 7

This was our hilliest day, after day one. Three spurs of Ursus Mountain need to be crossed to reach the old logging road again at the Living Bridge. The rewards, as mentioned earlier, are worth the effort. After cresting the first hill we were presented with two lily-padded tarns. They and the views of Mariner Mountain were worth a long rest break. The third and highest hill had a rocky spine from which the views were even better, including a glimpse of Bedwell Inlet.

Once down from the hills, we made a short side-trip to the Living Bridge. Its name comes from the trees and vegetation growing on the top of the last remaining logging road bridge spanning the Bedwell. The bridge has suffered somewhat since our last visit, and its days would seem to be numbered.

We continued on the old road to our final camp at Gayle McGee Bridge. The road is now very overgrown, and makes for a somewhat tedious trek. We arrived a little too late to make a side trip to the old Prosper Mine, instead many enjoyed a dip in the Bedwell.

Living Bridge

Thursday, Aug 8

Our last and easiest day took us down a gravel road to the head of Bedwell Inlet, passing through Clayoquot Wilderness Resort along the way. On the dock while waiting for our water taxi we each had a turn to reflect on our trip, and how it may have affected us. It was heartening to hear the positive responses everyone made.

Thank-you all for supporting the FOSP in its struggle to protect Strathcona Park. Our hope is that those that make this journey will come away with a renewed respect for our natural environment, and how important it is for us to protect it from commercial exploitation.



Kel Kelly, Karl Stevenson, Philippe Damiano, Linda Fuerniss, Susan Holvenstot, Glen Christensen, Colin Jackson, David Stapley, George Penfold, Marilyn Armstrong, David Gledhill, and Gabe Gledhill.


Claudia Greenaway, Samantha Babcock, Ian Holm, David Weaving, Alison Vardy, Michael McNulty, Eileen Sowerby, LeRoy McFarlane, Simon Rook , Wayne Gornall, Carol Hunter, and Bob St John.

The two groups meeting near Sundew Lake

For more photos see our Facebook albums for our upstream and downstream groups.

For more trail information read the Bedwell Trail Guide by Karl Stevenson

2013 Bedwell River Trip

From Sunday, Aug 4th to Thursday, Aug 8th the Friends will once again offer a fabulous trip up the Bedwell River from the ocean to Bedwell Lake trailhead. Over 5 days participants will hike up a seldom travelled valley on a trail the Friends have established over the last few years. This year we added an extra day to afford a more leisurely pace to enjoy the views and to relax beside the river.

The trip offers extraordinary views of Mts Mariner, Ursus, and Big Interior, beautiful tarns, an enchanting maple tree forest, spectacular waterfalls, and a chance to enjoy it all with wonderful people.

The water taxi from Tofino limits us to 10 participants. The Comox District Mountaineering Club is partnering in this adventure by offering the same trip in the opposite direction from Bedwell Lake trailhead to the ocean… so you can choose your preferred direction.

Participants should be reasonably fit to cover 34 km over 5 days with an elevation gain of 1100 meters. You will also need to be self-sufficient with your own tent, sleeping bag/mattress, cooking equipment, and food. A cost of $100 covers transportation from/to Courtenay including the water taxi.

Call Kel Kelly at 250-337-8348 to reserve a spot now!

2013 AGM

The Friends will be holding their AGM on Saturday June 22, 2013 at 3164 Hellicar Road, Courtenay from 2 – 4pm. Please RSVP Jennifer Pass at (250)334-2321 or passj@telus.net if you plan on attending. A potluck dinner to follow… please bring a plate, cup, cutlery, and a chair (we will have a few extras). We hope to see you there!

New Directors for 2013-2014

Kel Kelly

Marlene Smith- Schalkwijk

John Milne

Jack Welsh

Pipo Damiano

Bob St.John

Spring 2013 Newsletter

Read it here…


Friends of Strathcona Park

Courtenay, B.C.

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:

Download as a PDF file…

Fall 2012 Newsletter

Read it here…

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!

Kel Kelly

ph: 250 337 8348


Friends of Strathcona Park
Courtenay, B.C.


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 kelkelly55@yahoo.ca
  • Marlene Smith 250 337-8220 or marjuds@telus.net
  • 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
  • Communication
  • FOSP Membership Form

Read it here in pdf format…

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.

-Philip Stone

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

PDAC website

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
  • nocoalmine.net
  • 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.

View a video of last summer’s trail building (Phase II)

View a video of repairing the Gail McGee Bridge (Phase I)

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