The Comox District Mountaineering Club has been honoured with an award from BC Parks. The club — which is nearing a century of existence — won the volunteer group category in the awards that recognize groups and individuals who care for B.C.’s 1,000-plus parks and protected areas.
“Winning the award is right up there with winning the lottery for us,” CDMC president Juanita Wells said. “We’ve been involved with the park (Strathcona) for so long, even before it was a park. We have a vested interest because former members built a lot of the trails out there. We don’t want to see them ruined, and we don’t want to see them lost.”
The non-profit CDMC was formed in 1927 by a few people wanting to explore Forbidden Plateau. These pioneers included Jack Gregson, Clinton Wood, Sid Williams, Dick Idiens, Geoffrey Capes and Eugene Croteau. Ruth Masters joined the club in the late-1930s.
“There’s so much of it that Ruth drove for a long time,” said Wells, noting Masters devised guidelines for proper park usage. “She really kept things going. She was an amazing person.”
A yurt sits on the site of an old log cabin at Croteau Lake, where Croteau himself had run a guiding camp during the early years.
“She (Masters) was his camp cook for a season or two,” Wells said.
The club has continued the legacy of its pioneers by building trails, promoting conservation, teaching leadership skills, and organizing hiking/expedition programs.
Its members also invest many volunteer hours at work parties.
With help from the Island Mountain Ramblers, the CDMC completed the five-year Marble Meadows trail project in 1970.
Again with help from the Ramblers, members built a host tent pad and deck for the yurt at the Croteau Lake group campsite in 2018.
In 2000, the Helen Mackenzie millennium project was completed, with tent platforms and boardwalk to help protect fragile vegetation in the campsite area.
Last year, volunteers replaced three worn out creek crossings in Murray Meadows. An older club member had designed the bridges.
“By hand, after the bridges were flown in, we moved the new ones into place,” Wells said. “We do things further out in the park where (BC) Parks doesn’t have the manpower and funds to go. We will help closer in when it’s needed, but generally we focus on areas further out that don’t get the attention.”
In recent years, the club has focused on the Forbidden Plateau Traverse, a roughly 30-kilometre trail that reaches Paradise Meadows. The trail needs maintenance most years due to overgrowth and extreme weather events.
The CDMC is always accepting new members.