Flash Back Fridays

OUR ‘SECOND HAND’ WILDERNESS IS LIVING DOWN HISTORY LESSONS By Roger Prior, Island Review, June 1983

Every day a small fleet of deluxe air-conditioned buses zooms through Strathcona Park, twice daily up to the head of the lake, and twice back down again to Campbell River. The tour business is doing pretty well, you might think, considering it’s not even peak season yet. But look behind that tinted glass and you won’t find elderly ladies and gentlemen in cruise wear refreshed from a day trip through the scenic wonders of Vancouver Island’s biggest wilderness park. Instead you’ll meet a tough-looking bunch

A local clear cut by Elk River Timber (TimberWest)

A local clear cut by Elk River Timber (TimberWest) of engineers, mechanics and hard rock miners, all on their way to or from the Westmin precious metals mine, slap-dab in the middle of the park.

If you then check your map you’ll find Westmin isn’t the only industrial operation working in the park. There’s a chequerboard of officially approved mining claims around the southern border and several large swaths of timber-cutting leases in pockets at both ends of the park.

“Park? What park? There ain’t one!” In Campbell River, the nearest town, which also gets its drinking water from the Strathcona catchment area, there are some who won’t even dignify the park by the name. Dead fish in the lake, water contaminated by mine residue, and scenery denuded by generations of loggers have spoiled it for many people over the years. One group of hikers and nature-lovers who have unofficially adopted Strathcona Park, refer to it sadly as ‘Strathcona Industrial Park,’ and the proprietors of an outdoor education center that could be the park’s biggest user have few kind words to say about the government’s competence there.

Certainly Strathcona is the biggest of the six so-called Multi-Use parks in the province, in which industrial and recreational users are supposed to co-exist, but it remains the only major park in the country that has active logging and a working mine within its borders.

Strathcona is the oldest park in the province and its scars tell the story of the 70-plus year battle between conservation and industrial development in the province. Some call it a ‘second-hand’ park, others say development has improved it, but despite everything it remains the closes point of contact between many locals and visitors and the wile heartland of the Island. Read more