Public Meeting to Plan Park Defense
In preparation for an imminent announcement by Environment Minister Barry Penner, the Friends of Strathcona Park are hosting a public meeting and strategy session in Courtenay.
The Minister will be making an announcement very soon on his decision to amend the Master Plan for the park to allow private commercial horse use in the park.
Consideration for amending the plan was triggered by an application for a permit from Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts to bring horses and their attendant infrastructure into the remote Bedwell Valley, thirteen kilometers into the park.
The Friends have argued since the permit application, that it would effectively confer exclusive rights to the private operator because of the remote location. They have also expressed concerns that approval of the permit will open the door to a flood of other applications to use Strathcona, and other BC parks, for private commercial use.
According to the group, those concerns now seem close to coming true. Information obtained under a Freedom of Information (FOI) application reveals that in order to be seen as not conferring exclusive rights to one applicant, the Minister is considering opening thirteen different areas of the park to horse use. These include the route to Della Falls, the Bedwell Valley, the Elk River Road, Buttle Lake, Pamela Creek, Burman River, Gold Lake, Divers/Rossiter Lake access, Donner, Kunlin, Oshinow , Toy, Junior and June Lakes,
“There are two key issues here and neither of them are about horses”, says Kel Kelly, a director with the Friends. “The first has to do with the Minister’s capacity to override a master plan that was ten years in the making, that involved hundreds of citizens from every community bordering the park, that was a model of democratic participation. The citizens support this plan and the Minister should not use his position to diminish their work and overpower them.”
“The second key issue”, says Kelly, “is the application of the ideology of privatization to the BC Parks system”. Strathcona is BC’s first and oldest provincial park, about to celebrate its centenary in 2011. “Ideologies come and go”, say the Friends, “but we want BC parks to be wholly owned and managed by the public a century from now and beyond.”
“We need a last-minute push to convince the Minister to come down on the side of the existing plan,” says Kelly. “We hope that he will see that it is reasonable and fair to support the planning process that has taken place. We will be asking people to take action to support a good decision.”
The strategy meeting will provide historical background on how the park master plan came to be developed, an update on the existing permit application process, a presentation on information obtained through FOI, presentations on civic duty and legal options being pursued, and a request for participants to contact appropriate politicians.
“We recognize this is a terrible time to hold a public meeting”, says Kelly, “which is likely the reason the government is choosing this time to announce its decision.”
The meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 19th at 7:30 p.m. in the Evergreen Seniors’ Lounge of the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay. All members of the public are urged to attend.
For further information contact Kel Kelly at 250 337-8348