FOSP note: the following letter appeared in the Comox Valley Record on Oct 1, 2009
I am writing about an editorial cartoon in a recent issue of the Comox Valley Record, showing a horse in Strathcona Park. The cartoon is a good one, but it points up a failure in communication that disturbs me.
Although horses seem to have become a prominent focal point in this controversy over park use, they are not the real issue here. I believe that the real issue is the fact that our government has chosen to radically alter the Strathcona Park Master Plan in a way that runs totally against the original intent of the plan.
To do this, they disregarded the recorded opinions of at least four park administrators, ignored public opinion (around 90 per cent against the master plan changes), and paid no attention to the unanimous opposition of the government-appointed Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee.
The Strathcona Park Master Plan has been in existence, working very well and almost unchanged, since 1993. The reason that the plan has worked so well for so long is that it was the result of several years of hard work and much thought and input by thousands of concerned and dedicated members of the public.
The recent alterations to the master plan are a callous slap in the face for those people who put so much valuable effort into creating an admirable plan which has stood the test of time for many years.
The plan has stood so well, in fact, that there was no thought of any real change until a few years ago, when a private resort owner wanted a permit to run a commercial horse operation in the park. In order to allow this resort to conduct its operations in the park, the master plan needed to be changed.
And that, for me, is the real issue. What the government has done may not be illegal, but is it right? I happen to be one of the many people who helped formulate the Strathcona Park Master Plan, and I know how hard we worked to create it. I know that it was an excellent document, and didn’t deserve to be casually trampled in this manner, for reasons that, to me, seem disturbingly clear.
There’s no doubt that it’s high time for legitimate areas to be set aside for horse riding and similar higher-impact activities, but most people (even most horse riders) don’t think those areas need to be found in soggy rainforest valleys in wilderness parks.
There’s plenty of suitable land available elsewhere, in much more suitable locations.
But as I’ve said, that’s a separate issue, and shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen to obscure what’s really at stake in the recent government changes to the Strathcona Park Master Plan.