Council helping to fund effort to get Courtenay River estuary a nationl heritage designation

A documentary highlighting the importance of the Courtenay River estuary will help Project Watershed in its bid to have the estuary named a National Historic Site.

Courtenay council voted Monday to provide a $2,500 grant to the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society to fund the development of a 20- to 30-minute documentary on the archeological history and biological significance of the Courtenay River estuary.

The grant would be paid from the city's gaming funds.

With this support from the city, Project Watershed plans to approach the other governments on the shores of the estuary and to apply to a number of external foundations for support, Paul Horgen, vice-chair of the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, explained in a letter to council.

"Comox Valley Project Watershed Society believes that the efforts described are important to preserving, protecting and focusing interest and efforts on one of the most valuable and historically important natural areas in the Pacific Northwest," he wrote.

The development of the documentary video is part of an effort to achieve National Historic Site status for the estuary.

Project Watershed is taking the lead to prepare a submission to the National Historic Site and Monuments Board of Canada to seek historic site status for the estuary.

"This effort, along with an effort to seek a wildlife protection area in the estuary, will facilitate efforts to protect, preserve and restore the Courtenay River estuary," noted Horgen. "The mayors of Courtenay, Comox and the elected directors from the regional district have indicated their support for this effort, as well as the chief and council of the K'ómoks First Nation."

A research study by a local archeologist has resulted in the completion of one of the most significant archeological finds in North America, explained Horgen.

"Archeologist Nancy Greene and geologist David McGee have demonstrated that the Courtenay River Estuary possesses the remains of thousands of wood stakes, which suggest that the civilization occupying this area had an extensive fishery utilizing passive wood stake fish trap systems," he wrote.

Coun. Jon Ambler, council's representative to the group seeking National Historic Site status, urged council to support the request.

"The estuary and its future is central to all the communities in the Comox Valley; each has its piece in it," he said. "National Historic status puts us on the map, makes us a destination that people want to come and see it. It's the ultimate in green industry."

Coun. Murray Presley pointed out that supporting this request has multiple benefits, including promoting tourism and economic development.

"I think the payback will be tremendous for the Valley," he said.

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