Opposition grows to Sasquatch boundary adjustment
There's an 800 hectare parcel of land sitting just on the edge of Sasquatch Park that could put an extra $300,000 into Seabird Island's economic base, annually — if the land could be harvested.
But the logging of that parcel will have to wait, at least for now. The only usable roads leading to it run right through the Class A Provincial Park, which means no industrial activity is allowed within its borders. However, Seabird Island has partnered with Tamihi Logging to apply for a boundary adjustment to the park, which will be reviewed by the ministry of environment. If approved, the adjustment would essentially pave the way for Seabird to apply for a woodlot license for the parcel, which would see an average of 3,000m³ of timber removed every year. That equals ten days of logging truck activity, or 75 full loads leaving the woodlot annually, Ted Holtby from Tamihi Logging explained at a public information meeting last Thursday.
Their plan is being met with plenty of opposition from locals who don't want to see the park diminished in favour of logging activity. A petition has been making the rounds in Agassiz and Harrison, and those opposed to the plan have written letters to Mary Polak, Minister of Environment.
Opposition also set up tables outside Thursday's meeting at the Agassiz Agricultural Hall, where they added another 20 signatures to their petition.
Polak will have final say on the adjustment, following her ministry's staff review of an application. But that application hasn't been made yet, Holtby said.
They are looking for input and opinions from the community first, he added.
Holtby and Seabird's economic director Jay Hope, as well as staff of BC Parks and the Ministry of Environment all fielded questions from about thirty people who attended the four hour meeting. Harrison resident Lillian Martin asked why they bother to protect areas of land such as a Class A Provincial Parks if they can later be considered for boundary adjustments to allow for logging and other developments.
BC Parks Planning Section Head Vicki Haberl confirmed there is a process in place for boundary adjustments for those who want to apply, and that there have been such adjustments at other B.C.Parks.
"My interest is to see a pristine park without industrial activity," another member of the public stated.
The lot Seabird is hoping to access is dissected by BC Hydro lines, and sits south of Deer Lake and east of Hicks Lake, bordering on the steep hills visible from Seabird. A road currently runs through the land passed Moss Lake and out to the main road that leads to Deer Lake. From there, Seabird hopes to travel toward Rockwell Drive and through Harrison Hot Springs.
BC Hydro, which is allowed access to all roads in the course of their work, has recently upgraded the route for their twinning project. This means little would have to be spent on roads.
"BC Hydro has fixed that road up and it's in very good shape," Holtby said.
No way out
There's a twist to Seabird and Tamihi's proposal, and one that could provide a solution to a long-term problem. There is currently no emergency route out of Harrison Hot Springs and the section along Rockwell Drive that is part of the District of Kent. Both of those municipalities have been working for at least a decade to find an alternate route, preferring the unmaintained route that connects with Ruby Creek.
Holtby mentioned that route during his presentation, but said it's an expensive and therefore, unfavourable, option.
It could costs in excess of $600,000, Holtby said, and would still require moving logs through Sasquatch Park.
"The road at Ruby Creek at the moment is not suitable for public traffic," Holtby said. "It's generally used as a walking trail and a bridge would have to be built."
But it could solve the dilemma of having no secondary evacuation roadway in the event of an emergency. At least one person was trapped on Rockwell Drive without medication when a forest fire broke out near the marina last summer. On a busy camping weekend, thousands of people could be trapped in Harrison or further up the lake without a secondary route.
Municipalities have been working with the provincial government to find funding for such a project, but there's been no progress yet.
The proposal by Tamihi and Seabird sparked the interest of both municipalities right away, and members of both councils attended the meeting Thursday.
Holtby stressed that they have not yet made the secondary application to the Ministry of Environment for the boundary adjustment, and he couldn't provide a timeline for the proposal. He said he would hold another meeting like Thursday's in Chilliwack in the very near future, but had not specified a time or place by press time.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version that incorrectly identified Seabird's economic director.