June 19, 2014 11:57 pm
Updated: June 20, 2014 2:24 am

Proposal to bisect provincial park with a logging road stirs up heated debate

VANCOUVER – A proposal to bisect a popular provincial park with a logging road was the topic of heated conversation in Chilliwack Thursday night.

Sasquatch Provincial Park is located about two hours east of Vancouver near Harrison Hot Springs.

The 1,200 hectare park boasts three lakes and hundreds of thousands of people visit every year.

But now the B.C. government is considering using roads within the park for timber hauling, effectively removing them from park protection.

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A public meeting was held in Chilliwack but it was hosted by Tamihi Logging, which is the same company that is looking for access to the park for its logging trucks, so many of the attendees at the meeting felt the process was already biased from the beginning.

They would like to see an independent party brought in to host the meeting and hear public concerns directly before making a final decision.

“There’s going to be a lot of noise, there’s going to be increased traffic, there’s going to be degradation of roads, there’s going to be the danger of a truck losing its load in the park, traffic hazards, people trying to bike, hike, walk, children and the whole camping experience,” says Debbie Hansen, a park user. “It will be noisy, it will be dirty and it will be dangerous.”

Tamihi Logging says they would only be using the park for a few months a year.

“It’s a very small project,” says Ted Holtby from the company. “We’re only talking about a maximum, per annum, of about 75 truckloads. Seventy-five in, 75 out, so that’s not a big number of trucks.”

The Ministry of Environment says Sasquatch Park is named and described in Schedule C of the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act. Lands can only be removed from a park named and described in a schedule to the act by an Act of the Legislature.

In May 2013, the Seabird Island First Nation submitted a Stage 1 boundary adjustment proposal requesting removal of roads from the park to access forest situated beyond the park boundary. In September 2013, Environment Minister Mary Polak provided direction to invite Seabird Island First Nation to submit a detailed Stage 2 boundary adjustment application.

Seabird Island First Nation is in the process of developing their Stage 2 application, which is a detailed proposal determining what environmental and social impacts the boundary adjustment would have on the park and how those impacts might be mitigated.

There is yet no timeline for the application, but this still has some groups concerned.

“We’re worried that this is going to be par for the course in terms of making boundary adjustments to parks in B.C.,” said Peter Wood, terrestrial campaigns director for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“So there are roughly 30 different parks that are currently proposed for boundary adjustments,” he added. “This is the first one that I’ve seen that involves logging operations, that’s proposing to move a logging road from the park, so we’re quite concerned that this would change the character of the park and set a precedent for parks overall throughout B.C.”

- With files from Tanya Beja

© Shaw Media, 2014

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