The Friends of Strathcona Park are inviting people to experience exactly what they love about the park during a free day-long festival this Saturday.
Day hikes, kayaking, massage and First Nations storytelling are just a few of the free, low-impact activities planned for the Strathcona Wilderness Festival, which takes place Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Buttle Lake.
The festival is being described as a “hands-on day of fun and celebration where people who love Strathcona Park come together to share their knowledge and support for their beautiful park.”
“Karl Stevenson had a dream; that’s why the event is happening,” explained Carol Hunter, a Friends of Strathcona Park board member. “He dreamed of a place where people could come together, experience the park, learn about the park and show support for the park.”
Stevenson, who is also a Friends board member, has been hiking in Strathcona Park since his father first took him there when he was seven, and he hopes that when people experience all Strathcona Park has to offer, they will want to support and protect the park.
“Over the years, I’ve watched it get trashed for money by various governments — logging, mining, basically everything,” he said. “In 1988, the government dumped an area completely from the park and turned another area into an industrial zone … In 1988, they were doing exploratory drilling in the park, and we blockaded that.
“From that blockade, we got a lot of things — we got the Bedwell Valley back into the park, we got the industrial part removed, we got the Strathcona Park Master Plan, and also, we got created the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee.
“The idea of all those things was really that we hoped they were protective devices for the park,” Stevenson added. “The blockade wasn’t a lot of fun, and we didn’t want to do another one, so we hoped those things would help with that.
“Recently, the government trashed that master plan to allow a commercial operation to obtain a permit to run a high-impact commercial operation in the park,” he continued. “My hope is somehow or other, we can convince the government to restore the master plan and not turn the park into a commercial enterprise. I’m hoping if we get enough people to come out and show they support the park, with an election coming up, perhaps the government might be in the mood to take notice.”
But the Strathcona Wilderness Festival is not just about politics — it is also about learning about and experiencing the park, which is celebrating its centennial this year.
“The other thing about this is the people who attend this event don’t have to have anything to do with the political aspects,” said Stevenson. “We’re hoping to provide a day where people can enjoy the park, learn about the park and have fun.”
All the free events planned for the day are minimal- to no-impact activities that can be done in the park, including day hikes, nature walks and talks, kayaking, canoeing, children’s activities, photography walks, geocaching, seminars on back-country camping, trail running, cycling, rock climbing, Tai Chi, yoga, massage, First Nations storytelling with Wedlidi Speck, art with Clive Powsey and much more.
“They’re being offered by organizations and businesses and individuals in the community who have volunteered to offer their time,” said Hunter. “It’s been amazing. What started as something that was a small idea with nature walks … it’s just exploded so huge from all these people who love the park or love the minimal and no-impact activities they’re involved in and want to teach them to people. It’s just been absolutely incredible the response we’ve had.”
The festival is focused around the Price Creek trailhead at the south end of Buttle Lake.
The Strathcona Wilderness Festival is a leave-no-trace event, and people are asked to bring their own lunch and whatever they need, as the only amenities will be outhouses and water.
Free busing can be arranged from Courtenay and Campbell River by advanced reservation through www.friendsofstrathcona.org. School buses are being used, so they cannot take any children younger than five, but Hunter says they can help arrange carpooling. Anyone interested can contact Hunter at 250-339-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Friends of Strathcona are also looking for volunteers for the day.
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The Strathcona Wilderness Festival will also be a sendoff for a group of trail builders who will spend five days rebuilding the Bedwell Centennial Trail from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek.
Three groups of 15 trail builders have been approved, and the Friends of Strathcona are still looking for people to participate.
“The more the merrier, really,” said Stevenson. “We can use just about anybody.”
Visit http://friendsofstrathcona.org for more information about the Strathcona Wilderness Festival and the trail building.