The Friends of Strathcona Park landed on their feet after the long awaited decision from the Minister of the Environment. Barry Penner’s “information bulletin” informs the public that commercial operators will be allowed to lead guided horse tours in Strathcona Park. This represents a major departure from the intent of the Park’s Master Plan. To overcome this major hurdle, Minister Penner announced the Master Plan for Strathcona Park will be updated, and 13 areas in the park that are suitable for horse trail rides will be identified.
The Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) have long opposed the initial application from Clayoquot Wilderness Resort to run commercial horse tours in the Bedwell Valley of the Park on the grounds it represents yet another loss of a public asset owned by the future generations of BC residents to private, run for profit interests. The issue is no longer, and really never was about the exclusivity of horses in the Park to entertain the elite guests at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. We were all duped. Minister Penner has acknowledged that the Parks of BC are severely underfunded, and lack employees to maintain, expand and supervise our internationally recognized Parks.. So, the private sector, will come to the rescue under this governments policy of public private partnerships. Parks have resources to be exploited. Parks need to be adequately funded. Enter the private sector. Other wise known as a “wedge issue”.
At last week’s FOSP meeting, the 45 in attendance agreed that political decisions that erode public ownership are widespread, increasing and, if not held in check, will dominate the political agenda as an expedient way to demonstrate economic responsibility. The public’s domain will be threatened and we will face a future of pay-as-you go access to our own wilderness.
The vast majority of public opinion demanded the Master Plan be honoured, and commercial operators be kept out of Strathcona Park. Clearly the government did not acknowledge the groundswell and now we contemplate how to continue the campaign for your right to a protected, non commercial wilderness.
A wise man taught us to ask the question: “Whose ox is being Gored”? If You do not believe, You will stand by, You will ignore, and You will claim it is of no importance, “It is not My Ox”.
Do You want a park system that is maintained as a public trust for you, your grandchildren, and all the wild creatures; or one that caters to private commercial interests?
The government in power today, has made this a difficult battle, as they have selected to obscure the commercial/corporate aspect of this pronouncement. In theory, they are opening up 13 areas of Strathcona Park to everyday horse enthusiasts. Two of the 3 proposed areas, have been designated for horse use for the past 8 years, and have rarely been used as north island riders do not have the need to trailer horses for 2 or 3 hours to access great trails. The majority of the trails under this proposed change to the Master Plan for Strathcona Park, will be totally unaccessible for the North Island horse community.
Personally, I am sure that Environment Minister Barry Penner probably loves wilderness as much as I do, and is caught between the lure of a quick fix and a moral mandate to protect the parks.
The Friends of Strathcona Park, ask you to support the wilderness intent of the Park.
“Stay tuned, it ain’t over yet!”
Submitted by LeRoy McFarlane
Black Creek, FOSP, GPBC.