Flash Back Fridays

“Wilderness in jeopardy: see it before it’s gone”

By Myrna Boulding, the Campbell River Courier, Thursday, September 25, 1986

The former minister of Lands, Parks and Housing, Jack Kempf, spoke to the Gold River Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 16, not on Strathcona Park as he was originally scheduled to do but on forestry, his new portfolio.

He will make a good forests minister. That is where his heart lies. My con- cern is with parks, particularly Strathcona Park, now in the hands of Austin Pelton along with environment.

Relaxing at Landslide lake after hiking up the Elk River Trail.

Relaxing at Landslide lake after hiking up the Elk River Trail.

If Mr. Pelton has ideas very different from Mr. Kempf it will invalidate much of what I have to say, but I expect consensus within the Social Credit Party has pretty well been established regarding the future of Strathcona Park.

At the 75th birthday celebration of Strathcona Park on Aug. 4, Mr. Kempf promised a detailed review of plans for this park with public hearings to be held in Campbell River and Courtenay sometime this fall.

His stated objective was to make sure of the continued orderly development of our parks system, with a first step toward meeting this goal being to implement the con- clusions of the Wilderness Advisory Committee.

He said that this process was now well under way. The question is, what constitutes orderly development?

Strathcona Park has approximately 300 of the 650 mining claims presently stakes in B.C.’s 365 provincial parks. Many were staked in the mid-60s, about the time that the designation of Strathcona as a Class A park was changed to three “nature conservancies” and 127,206 acres of Class B park.

Most of the acreage is now recommended for deletion by the Wilderness Advi- sory Committee. I think that definite areas were set aside back in ’65 and ’66 for min- ing and logging.

Mr. Kempf has stated that he is a firm believer in multiple use, including development in park areas. He is against resource areas being used for single purpose. Multiple use may work for mining and forestry, but tourism with its dependence on wilderness, scenery and wildlife – forget it! Multiple use means industrial use.

After listening to Mr. Kempf talk to forest interests, I’ve realized that large sections of Strathcona Park are slated for logging.

Tourist and recreation interests, not to mention wilderness values, area going to be further compromised. One young man from Gold River tells me that logging on the west side has already extended into Strathcona Park and is clearly visible from a helicopter.

The early park pioneers had their own ideas about orderly development. In 1911 it was hoped that a park similar to Banffor Yosemite with what were termed ‘attractions’ – hotels, trails, etc. – would bring to the province many thousands of visi- tors year after year, proving eventually to be one of the province’s best resources.

Very little has been done to provide these attractions in Strathcona Park. I had a large group from the Appalachian hiking club stay at Strathcona Park Lodge. They found the trails too steep. They couldn’t get high enough to see the beautiful alpine areas.

This October 160 or more people of 60 years and older are coming to Strath- cona Park Lodge through an organization called Elderhostel. I am hard-pressed to find appropriate activities for them. Compare this with Olympic National Park where al- pine access allows visitors to view and photography nature at close range.

Not that the beauty isn’t there. Last month through the courtesy of some American guests, I flew for 1 1⁄2 hours by helicopter over the west side of the park.

Even after 25 years of living at the edge of the park and making short trips into its well-known areas, I was overwhelmed by the beauty revealed by the helicopter’s perspective. Della Lake and Nine Peaks are absolutely spectacular. Victoria Peak and the area around Colonel Foster and Volcano Lake area scenery I’d match with any- where in the world.

Landslide Lake can easily compete with Lake Louise for scenic beauty.

Trouble is, who has seen these areas? Very few. If we are going to have con- cerned support for Strathcona Park we need access for people who aren’t half mountain goat. Our population is aging. Perhaps we need a road up the Elk Valley to Landslide Lake. (My staff will hate me for suggesting this.)

Why not have Westmin build a properly drained road instead of its present cat road to the alpine areas of Tennant Lake. Donner Lake could also be made accessi- ble if the old logging roads were fixed up.

To those who would say keep the public away from these areas, I would say that either we make some wilderness areas accessible to tourists and increase tourist dollars spent in this area or we are going to lose irreplaceable areas in the name of eco- nomic development.

It is hard to know where to go for support. Campbell River has not had to look to Strathcona Park to attract tourists because of the lure of salmon fishing.

It’s hard to get the Tourism Promotion Society (largely funded by Campbell River municipality) to relate to the park. Local people who work in resource-based in- dustries might be excused for seeing the park as a new resource waiting to be harvested.

The Parks Ministry seems to have low status within the provincial govern- ment. Parks employees win no brownie points if they speak out in favor of keeping log- ging and mining out of the parks.

On the contrary you only have to read the proposed boundary changes recom- mended by the parks division (and for the most part endorsed by the Environmental Advisory Committee) to see what parks people at the top have in mind for Strathcona Park.

Delete 35,000 hectares (87,500 acres). Most of these deletions mirror the parts of Class park that became Class B back in 1965. Obviously the government was responding to pressures of logging and mining interests at that time. The wool was pulled over our eyes by the apparent gain of ‘nature conservancy areas’.

These nature conservancy areas are made up of three mountainous core areas having little or no mineral, forest or hydro potential. We are going to end up with three widely separate relatively inaccessible areas of park, with helicopter fly-in not allowed.

The suggested areas to be added to Strathcona Park include 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of mostly logged land some of which no one asked to have included. (They were obviously searching for acreage.)

Rogers Ridge and the land north towards Campbell River from the present park entrance should not, in my opinion, be included in the park. We need a Banff-type four seasons resort village with land development profits going towards a skill hill is Strathcona Park is to be realized.

Without people living nearby to keep an eye on the park, there’s no hope. It’s even been suggested that Strathcona Park be used as a land bank for parks everywhere. The final insult to our intelligence is the proposed designation of the core of the

park around Cream Lake (chief among the jewels) as a ‘recreational area for mineral claims zone’. This large area is not included in the proposed deletion of 35,000 hectares (87,500 acres).

It might as well be, because with many of the park’s 300 mining claims lo- cated here, what could possible be left of interest to tourists?

Bob Flitton, deputy minister of tourism, once said that one mine in the park at a time is enough. He also said that the provincial government will not allow B.C.’s internationally-acclaimed park system to be eroded by resource extraction.

Certainly park boundaries need revision. My husband Jim Boulding spent most of the last two years of his life trying to save Elk Mountain across from our lodge from logging. BC Forest Products and the Ministry of Tourism tried to effect a trade as the area in question was obviously at the entrance to the park and very scenic.

The view from Strathcona Park Lodge was recently featured in the Colonist’, and last year in the ‘Globe and Mail’. Those were old pictures. Now it is clear-cut half way up. Tourists walk into our office and say, “I didn’t come this far to see that!”

And more logging is planned, not only on Elk Mountain but also in the only remaining nice forest that tourists can get to, near Crest Mountain, which is also slated for removal from the park. Only yesterday a honeymoon couple from Alberta told us, “We are disappointed with the view.” (They left).

There was never any land set aside in this area for tourist facilities. Strath- cona Park Lodge is in the middle of land already logged or slated for logging.

Please drive up and see this area and Strathcona Park.