Reader feels Tweedsmuir Park being managed like a ‘bear zoo’

Reader feels Tweedsmuir Park being managed like a ‘bear zoo’

Dear Editor,

After reading Joan Sawicki’s well written letter I felt the urge to once again complain about the fact that Tweedsmuir Park is increasingly being managed like a bear zoo, and not being managed as a place where the average British Columbian can go and enjoy nature and wilderness.

Joan admits that the main objective behind management direction in Tweedsmuir Park these days is to maintain bear refugia where shy bears can choose to forage relatively undisturbed by people.  She then goes onto explain that this will be achieved by controlling people’s access to the river so that people will be safe and bears will be less stressed.

My daughter visited us from Calgary last September on a hot summer day and wanted to go swimming at Belarko Pool just like in the old days. In the old days we would go up to Belarko, put out a towel on the beach, have a good swim or two with and without our dog and go home happy. Well this year was not fun. The minute we arrived some guy ran out and told us that bears inhabited the area. Didn’t we know that!  There were no bears to be seen anywhere, and we have known for over 25 years that bears inhabit the area.

He then complained that our truck might be interfering with commercial bear viewing outfits that routinely launch their rafts at this site. I explained that our car was not blocking the launch site and we had already thought about that possibility. He then yelled at us about our dog that was drinking water from the river 10 feet away. He wondered out loud why we did not know that all dogs have to be on leash in all BC Parks at all times.  I asked “who are you?” and he simply told me that he worked for Parks and that was all I needed to know. We got back in our vehicle and left.

I want Joan Sawicki to know that for some of us, Tweedsmuir Park is not all about the bears.  Some of us don’t care that much about the bears. We long for the days when bears ran away from people when they saw us coming down the river. People like me like to enjoy Tweedsmuir Park because we like walking through the old growth forest and observing and smelling the plants and mushrooms and other animals there.

We enjoy Tweedsmuir Park because of the wonderfully refreshing sensation of drifting down the pristine Atnarko. We enjoy Tweedsmuir Park because of the opportunities to fish for rainbow trout and salmon and hunt deer in an old growth setting.  Tweedsmuir Park was initially set up as a place for all people to go and enjoy a wonderfully wild British Columbia place and it functioned that way for almost a hundred years.

Bears were taught to be wary of people and there were next to no serious interactions under that management philosophy. Bear populations were healthy, deer populations were healthy, moose populations were healthy, and fish populations were healthy.  I miss those days.

What we are now embarking on is a new kind of social scientific experiment in Park management, that is “let’s turn Tweedsmuir Park into a grizzly bear preserve.” Joan Sawicki pretends that there is decades of research behind what they are undertaking. That is not true. And with all scientific experiments there will be unexpected consequences to Park’s actions.

What I fear is that her obsessive desire to preserve bears will result in never ending restrictions on people access to the Park. What is really not fair is that the general public does not get to vote on whether we want to turn Tweedsmuir Park into a bear zoo. We are just forced to accept the fact we are increasingly going to be told where to walk, when to walk, and how to walk in this public park.

All this under the mantra that these changes will make the bears happy; and everyone should know that ensuring bears are happy is the main operating management principle for Tweedsmuir Park in 2014. Anyways, the bears may be happier in the park these days, but I sure am not.

Sincerely,Harvey ThommasenHagensborg, BC