Our beautiful area contains many BC Parks and conservancies.

BC Parks holds community engagement meeting

BC Parks holds community engagement meeting February 27

BC Parks staff were on hand February 27 in the banquet room at the Valley Inn to discuss some of the projects they have been working on this past year, issues they have been addressing, and providing the opportunity for feedback from the community. Design plans were posted for two projects to be completed by the end of the year in South Tweedsmuir Park.

Joan Sawicki, a tireless BC Parks volunteer, facilitated the meeting, and began on a personal note, “I really believe that our protected areas in BC are so important for conservation values, protecting habitat and biodiversity, the areas that we recreate in, and what these spaces mean for our local economy,” Sawicki explained.

The informal gathering began with an introduction of the BC Parks Team: Planning Section Head Volker Michelfelder and Area Supervisors Bree Matthewman and Steven Hodgson. Brief presentations were prepared by each team member, complete with beautiful pictures of our local area, which gave a rich description of each member’s job.

The personal introductions were a great reminder of the personal commitment of our friends, families, and neighbours’ who work for this organization. BC Parks, in collaboration with First Nations, has to achieve a delicate balance of establishing winter and summer recreation, commercial and non-commercial opportunities, while conserving our sensitive biological zones. “The community’s input is essential to the planning process,” said Michelfelder. “It ensures that the plans reflect the values and interests of the community.”

Some of the many accomplishments for 2013 were included in Bella Coola Area Supervisor’s Steve Hodgson’s presentation. He presented a comprehensive update on projects completed over the last year, beginning with a big thanks to Hans Granander for his work as Project Manager last year, and thanking Kevin Matuga, Rod Krimmer, and Justin Grey for their hard work in rehabilitating the Loop Trail and Stillwater Lake Trail.

The Tote Road has been subject to extensive rehabilitation since the 2010 flood, and the new Young Creek Bridge is truly an engineering marvel. Suspension bridges were installed on both the Loop Trail and the Stillwater Lake Trail, and Eucott Hotsprings also saw some construction work. A pit toilet was installed, as well as a deck for easier access with plans for railings to be completed this year. These additions should make it easier for elders to access the hotsprings and will make the entire experience more comfortable for all users.

2014 Capital Plans include reopening the Atnarko campground, putting in a new day shelter at Fisheries Pool Campground, replacing the aged Atnarko Ranger Station, and an enhancement project to the Belarko Viewing Platform. Prior to starting this work, BC Parks will be conducting archeological assessments with the Nuxalk Nation along the entire corridor.

On the Central Coast, the Hakai Beach Institute students and staff have contributed tremendous time and effort, as well as in-kind donations creating boardwalks, look outs, benches, and continued trail building. The Coastal Guardian Watchmen have been integral in assisting the team with monitoring the areas, trail work, and identifying areas of concern.

“It’s always amazing when we can get school groups and volunteers to help with construction, and their work has helped to increase safety on the trails, enabling elders and the less able to visit these unique areas,” said Central Coast Area Supervisor Bree Matthewman. “We’re always open to more suggestions, and I hope our presentations have encouraged you to help out and become involved in the projects all along the central coast.”

Following each presentation was a brief Q&A session. Several residents questioned the process of how BC Parks identifies areas for protection and planning. BC Parks staff explained that this is a complex process of identifying existing risks to areas as well as existing recreational uses, BC Parks’ priorities and funding abilities, and ensuring that there is a balance of conservation and recreation so that areas can be set up to be sustainable.

A concerned resident also spoke to the recent legislation being tabled in Parliament that will amend the Parks Act to allow “research and feasibility studies” within parks boundaries. Residents feared that this could allow further development to parks by industry. Meeting facilitator (and former Minister) Joan Sawicki encouraged any concerned residents to write letters to their MLA.

If you would like to know more about any and all of the plans mentioned, they can be viewed at the Parks office and the BC Parks webpage. The public was encouraged to visit with staff, call, write, or e-mail anytime. Public consultations will be advertised in the paper, and your input is essential to the planning processes.