Posted by: friendsofstrathcona | June 11, 2010

An Open Letter to Barry Penner

Dear Mr. Penner

Even though I assume you will never see this letter, (if it’s answered at all, it’ll be answered by a machine) and even though I believe it wouldn’t matter even if you did see it, because all important decisions aren’t made by you, but by the faceless power figures somewhere in the shadows behind you, I still have to address this letter to someone, so I’m addressing it to you.

I am writing to let you know that I’m unhappy with the recent decision by you ( I’m sure the decision wasn’t yours to make, but for purposes of brevity, I’m willing to pretend that it was) to butcher the Strathcona Park Master Plan to allow non-conforming, high impact, commercial activities within Strathcona Park boundaries. I would like you to quickly reverse this bad decision, while you still can. I think it’s crucial for the decision to be reversed now, before your government grants a park use permit to the one wealthy individual who clearly stands to benefit from your flawed decision (and who, to many, appears to have been the main reason why this whole costly, stupid, and detrimental process was initiated in the first place).

I believe it’s crucial to reverse your decision now, before you grant the permit to the rich man who stands to benefit, because, once you grant the permit, you’ll be locked into it for as long as the permit is legally binding, perhaps as long as 30 years. Even if the next provincial government wishes to, they won’t be able to reverse your unfortunate decision without being sued by the rich guy, who is now patiently waiting to receive the benefits from your recent alterations to the Strathcona Park Master Plan.

I realize that all this probably doesn’t matter much to you, based on how you’ve been treating Strathcona (and other provincial parks) in the past few years. Aside from trampling the Strathcona Master Plan, apparently to force it more into line with your political ideals of privatization, you’ve been allowing park bridges to rot away, trails to deteriorate, and staff levels to dwindle to skeletal levels; all due, you say, to lack of funds.

Meanwhile, at the same time as you spend large amounts of public money to alter an excellent Master Plan so that a commercial concern may gain entry into Strathcona Park, you allow major bureaucratic barriers to continually stifle the efforts of volunteer groups, who would very much like to maintain park trails at no cost to the government and the tax payer.

Could this be called mismanagement of parks? I think so, especially since many of the best trails in Strathcona have been built and maintained by volunteers for years, and they function very well. Unlike the very few trails built (and, of course, not maintained) by the government, which don’t function well at all. Two sad examples of this are the hideously eroded former horse trails on the Forbidden Plateau, and the more recently built Bedwell Lake trail, which is already showing signs of major erosion damage. Meanwhile, the excellent Strathcona Park Master Plan, which was created, incidentally, by the public, not by government, and which has worked extremely well for years, was needlessly altered by you at great expense, against massive public opinion. This shows very plainly that you apparently know nothing about the purpose of parks, and care even less.

This is to let you know, Mr. Penner, that a large number of us, who love our parks and think they are worth protecting and caring for, are tired of watching your government degrade our wonderful park system, and we intend to start doing something about it.

The first step in this campaign, which we are calling “Take Back the Park”, will take place on June 19, when we will restore access to the Crest Mountain trail which has been closed for some time due to a condemned bridge. We will hold a short information rally at the site, and we invite anyone who cares about Strathcona Park, and wishes to do something constructive for the park, to attend. For those interested, more information is available at:

Thank you.

Karl Stevenson
3825 Laurel Drive
Royston, BC
V0R 2V0
250 334-2206


  1. Reference: 127674

    July 23, 2010

    Karl Stevenson


    Dear Mr. Stevenson:

    Thank you for your email of June 11, 2010, regarding horse use and trails in Strathcona Provincial Park.

    Following extensive public and stakeholder consultations and a review of the Strathcona Provincial Park Master Plan, I decided to amend the clause within the Master Plan regarding horse use and approved this amendment on March 11, 2010. The amendment more clearly defines where horse use can be considered within the park.

    Both the 1993 Strathcona Provincial Park Master Plan and the 2001 Strathcona Park Master Plan Amendment supported limited horse use in Strathcona Provincial Park. However, neither plan was entirely clear about exactly where horses were permitted. The amended plan identifies the specific areas that meet the new criteria for potential horse use.

    We are aware that not everyone supported amending the Master Plan or allowing horses into certain areas of the park. I assure you that the advice received from all the various interest groups and individuals was fully considered in reaching this decision to amend the Master Plan. The decision does align with the existing Master Plan vision that Strathcona Provincial Park remains largely dedicated to wilderness and wilderness travel on foot, and that horse use will be considered within only a very small portion of the park.

    As you may know, I have approved $330,000 for facility repairs in Strathcona Provincial Park this year. This constitutes approximately 33 per cent of the entire capital improvement budget allocation for Vancouver Island. This budget includes replacing the damaged bridge on the Della Falls trail, repairing the Upper Myra Falls boardwalk and replacing the Crest Mountain trail bridge crossing. Other projects under this funding include corridor trail upgrades, Paradise Meadows boardwalk repairs and water system upgrading for the front country campgrounds. Last year, the BC Government spent over $250,000 on capital facility improvements in Strathcona Provincial Park.

    I understand that Friends of Strathcona had a very successful volunteer trail party to provide a temporary access for the Crest Mountain trail. We thank you for your efforts and hope this will lead to more opportunities for volunteers. Ministry staff inform me they were able to partner with you on this successful project and that they have learned new ways to accommodate volunteers to work on park trails. I understand that your group is dedicated to helping us meet our safety requirements for volunteers working in our parks.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns.


    “Original Signed By”

    Barry Penner


    pc: Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier

    Ron Cantelon, MLA, Parksville – Qualicum

    Don McRae, MLA, Comox Valley

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