FOSP note: the following letter appeared in the Campbell River Courier and the Comox Valley Record on Oct 13, and the Comox Valley Echo on Oct 16, 2009.
Comox District Mountaineering Club
Hon. Barry Penner, Minister of Environment
30 September, 2009
I write on behalf of the members of Comox District Mountaineering Club (CDMC) to express our dismay at learning that the budget for BC Parks is to be reduced yet again.
Our particular interest is in Strathcona Provincial Park where this year several popular hiking trails (Crest Mountain, Upper Myra Falls and Della Falls, to name a few) were closed all season because of lack of funds to carry out necessary maintenance and repairs. With even less money available in the future, it is probable that more trails will have to be closed and large areas of the Park rendered inaccessible to the public due to disrepair and safety concerns.
However, there exists a very valuable resource that could be utilized to solve the problem; namely, volunteers. Indeed, the value of volunteers is clearly recognized in the 1993 Strathcona Park Master Plan (Section 6.4, page 40), and in the 2001 Master Plan Amendment (Section 6.5, page 29). Unfortunately, it appears that current BC Parks management has overlooked the valuable stewardship service that volunteers could provide.
CDMC has a long history of volunteer work in Strathcona Park, such as the provision and placement of directional signs, the construction of many trails (Elk River trail to Landslide Lake; Arnica Lake trail; Price Creek trail; Marble Meadows trail; Glacier trail), and the construction of the campsite at Lake Helen McKenzie, to name just a few projects. CDMC has a lot of “sweat equity” in Strathcona Park. As well, members of many other organizations have also donated countless hours of volunteer labour on park projects. Clearly, there is a substantial role for volunteers in the management of Strathcona Park.
We would like to see all the hiking trails in Strathcona Park open and accessible to the public, not only for our own benefit but for that of tourists as well. Tourism is an important sector of the economy for all of the communities that surround Strathcona Park. People come from across Canada and all over the world for the incredible wilderness experience of hiking and backpacking along its ridges and through its valleys. But if many areas of the park are “off limits”, why would tourists bother coming here?
In 2011 Strathcona Park, BC’s first provincial park, will be 100 years old, and several events are being planned to celebrate the occasion. It would be wonderful if all of Strathcona Park’s hiking trails were open by that date. Even though the BC Parks budget for maintenance and repair work may be severely reduced, much could be accomplished by engaging hiking and other groups in the stewardship of the park. All it would take is one enthusiastic individual from the BC Parks staff to take on the task of identifying and contacting the groups that care about Strathcona Park, and coordinating the volunteer work parties.
We’re ready to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and work up a sweat for Strathcona Park. Is BC Parks willing to take us up on our offer?
Ken Rodonets, CDMC President