These are some of the great letters written to our Minister of Environment, Terry Lake, as a result of our Facebook ‘Letters to Lake’ event. The Minister has not as of yet signed the Park Use Permit for Clayoquot Wilderness Resort to establish a private horse operation in Strathcona Park. However BC Parks has already given it their stamp of approval on February 23. Thank you all for these great letters… everyone counts!
Director, Friends of Strathcona Park
To: The Honourable Terry Lake, Minister of the Environment,
Copy: The Honourable Christy Clark, Premier
Dear Mr. Lake,
Your ministry has recently approved the issue of a Park Use Permit for Clayquot Wilderness Resort to take horses into the recovering but still immensely fragile Bedwell Valley.
The permit you are in danger of signing will go against the clearly expressed opposition of more than 90% of the attendees at 3 flawed public meetings held throughout the Island last year and against the recommendations of your own organ – the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee. A clear indication of your government’s biased position on this issue was that the question asked of those in attendance at the public meetings was not whether horses should be allowed in the Bedwell but how their presence could be managed. I would hardly call this a shining example of democracy in action.
Nevertheless, your government went ahead and unilaterally amended the Strathcona Park Master Plan to accommodate your rich friends in the Genovese family, the owners of CWR.
You do not have any form of mandate to take this action other than political expediency. There is no public benefit from allowing horses in the Bedwell. No jobs will be created nor wealth extracted. The erosion prone route to be developed by CWR will be bypassed by any hiker with a modicum of backcountry sense and the Friends of Strathcona have already told you that they will build a trail up the valley at no cost to the government. With respect, neither you nor CWR have a fraction of the backcountry knowledge of the Friends of Strathcona. Doesn’t it make sense to leave such matters to the experts?
Your duty to the public now is to refuse to sign this permit. It is not too late to reverse the appalling decision to allow CWR to make a rich man’s playground of the Bedwell Valley. You must do what the electorate has put you in power to do. To act fairly, responsibly and with accountability. To date, your predecessors have displayed none of these qualities. I implore you to do the right thing for Strathcona and Vancouver Island and allow the clearly expressed will of the majority to prevail.
Martin Smith (Dr)
Treasurer, Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC
Board Member, Alpine Club of Canada, Vancouver Island Section
Lands End Road,
North Saanich, V8L 5K9
Dear Minister Lake
Have you ever walked through a truly wilderness area; one without any of the conveniences of home, or the traffic..? Have you trekked about for a day in a space that wasn’t prepared, or packaged, one that didn’t have our footprint ALL over it? I ask because the Clayoquot area is now just that, and it’s one of the few areas like it in our province. I know this because I helped it to gain the status it has now, back in the early ’90’s. (Remember the Midnight Oil “concert”?) No, I’m not a ‘tree hugger’, I work in Industry.
Mr Lake, we need places like this; places where we can go, away from our built up surroundings and our stuff. The little slash of bush between my acreage and yours is NOT enough. Not for us and not for the creatures who’ve been there long before us.
Fact one: Horses freak wildlife out. The reverse is also frighteningly true. Fact two: Horses are more damaging to an area than any human willed recreational activity that isn’t gas powered.
Questions regarding the need and desire for the proposed licensing have been asked, and roundly answered by those who’ve attended the public meetings. There are other beautiful areas for the equestrian inclined to go. If they want to see THIS area, please let them walk through it, and in doing so, see it without accessories and hold it close so as to WANT to come back with their friends and kids and show them something we haven’t ‘improved’.
I thank you in advance for being one who listens to the corporate voice of your public, and not just the corporate voice.
To: The Honourable Terry Lake, Minister of the Environment,
CC: All environmental groups, newspapers, radio, television, and politicians
Public Input Mitigated
BC Parks has ignored the decision of its own Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee (SPPAC) to turn down an application by Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) to construct and operate a private horse operation in that park. Instead they have ‘mitigated’ (to make less severe, serious, or painful) the committee’s No into a questionable Yes.
Back in 1988 the provincial government was surprised by the outpouring of negative public sentiment against mineral exploration drilling in Strathcona Park. A months long blockade of the drill site resulted in many concerned citizens being arrested for merely protecting the park from industrial activity. The massive media coverage embarrassed the government into stopping the exploration, and eventually to remove all mineral claims in the park. To prevent similar events from happening in the future, a Master Plan for the park and a Public Advisory Committee came into being.
The Master Plan was formulated by a committee of equal numbers of government and public members. SPPAC members were to represent the public interest in park affairs. They are appointed by the government from varying backgrounds and professions to reflect a wide range of public viewpoints. Thus the Master Plan and SPPAC became the public’s safeguard against government misadventures.
This framework worked well for about 15 years, until 2006 when CWR applied to BC Parks to extend their private operations into the park. It is said that governments have a memory of about 10 years, after which they tend to repeat mistakes of the past. They unilaterally changed the Master Plan to allow the application to move forward. They did not form a committee of equal numbers of government and public members as they did when the Plan was originally created. Instead they went ahead on their own and changed the Plan in 2010, disregarding the rejection of the amendment by SPPAC. Recently they also turned a blind eye to SPPAC’s unanimous rejection of CWR’s application.
The government’s answer to this is that they have ‘mitigated’ SPPAC’s rejections by incorporating some of SPPAC’s ideas into their plans. The government seems pleased by this approach,… they can say they have consulted with the public, and are now ready to move forward.
This misuse of public input by our government, especially that of their own Public Advisory Committee, does not fool the Friends of Strathcona Park. If the new Minister of the Environment were to re-submit their mitigated Master Plan Amendment of 2010 and the CWR Park Use Permit Application to SPPAC, and they approved both, then the Friends would need to abide by their decision.
No one, especially the Friends, wants a repeat of 1988. We urge the new Minister to please reconsider their recent misguided decisions, and take public input seriously.
Director, Friends of Strathcona Park
Comox, BC V9M 2B7
Dear Honourable Dr. Terry Lake,
Re: the issuing of a Park Use Permit to CWR.
Having met with you recently and seeing your report and recommendations on the sled dogs, I feel encouraged that there might be a glimmer of hope that you may actually listen to what people have to say on this subject. This year is a special year for our BC Provincial Parks as we celebrate 100 years of our Provincial park system. For many years BC carried with great pride the title “Beautiful British Columbia” and we were all proud of our park system. Through serious funding cuts to our parks, trails, information and interpretation services, maps and public information all of the above now have fallen by the way side.
Park staff, mostly well meaning, are desperately trying to fulfill their mandate to look after our parks with a budget that falls far short of what is required to keep our parks and services in a beautiful and healthy state. From the top they have been advised to look at the private sector for trail maintenance, repair and liability. Following the thread of the Freedom of Information (FOI) obtained to try to understand why BC Parks first changed the master plan and then approved the CWR permit (in principle) shows clearly that there was a “corporate appetite” to issue this particular permit inspite of overwhelming public objection and rejection by the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee (SPPAC) of both the change of masterplan and the issuing of the permit. SPPAC was actually presented with a draft plan for their consideration while the real plan had already been signed of by BC parks staff.
The reasons SPPAC and the public listed as reasons for their objections were used to “mitigate the perceived problems for horse use in the Bedwell” and also forwarded to the proponent to “improve and assist in the permit application”. The public was openly told to come up with a “show stopper” to halt the issuing of this permit. This is a very strange way to mange our public parks and seems highly unprofessional to me!
Having been actively involved in the protection and trail building in Strathcona Park for the last 25 years of its 100 year existence, I feel deeply disturbed by the attitudes of the staff of BC Parks and their departure of managing Strathcona Park as a public trust. Reading the F.O.I on this subject I am appalled by the deep disrespect parks staff displays towards the public and SPPAC, who’s function is to represent he public voice for BC Parks management.
How are we, the public, going to celebrate our Park(s) now BC Parks have (yet again) lost the trust and respect of the public? Having a deep commitment to keep our parks public I (and with me many people in BC) have great difficulties to celebrate that on the 100 birthday of Strathcona Park the first permit was issued for private commercial (recreation) industry to run a private horse guiding and built private infra structures in Strathcona Park. It is a sad event and nothing to celebrate! A more appropriate present for the government to Strathcona would be, to restore the funding to our parks to their historic past when we had volunteer trail crews, youth groups and youth volunteer wardens, information and interpretation centres and up to date and adequate public maps and information on our parks!
I would like to urge you to seriously look into the manner parks management pushed the discussion to issue this Park Use Permit through. The main reason being that CWR has offered to spent substantial amounts of money (somewhere in the order of $300.000 and upwards) to repair an old roadbed, which is washed out and collapsed in many places in return for this permit to run a private horse operation in our park and built several private tent platforms for the exclusive use of their guests. How can the issuing of a permit for private horse guiding benefit Strathcona Park and the public?
As a veterinarian I also have great concern for the safety of these horses. The old roadbed has washed out in many places and rivers have left big boulder fields and hazardous river crossings, not particular safe hose country. Also old rotten culverts and log crossings are hidden under the gravel. The manager of CWR himself, John Caton, proudly related a story where he himself and his horse fell through one of these rotten logs, it almost killed him and the horse. Fortunately he did not need to shoot his horse so he could get out and no one was hurt. Having walked the trail; I do not feel that this proposed trail is all safe for the horses and subsequently their riders.
Please Honourable Dr Lake have a heart for our parks and help us to truly celebrate the 100 years of Strathcona Park and our BC Park system and review and decline the final signing of this permit.
With great respect, yours truly,
Marlene Smith-Schalkwijk DVM