An area near the Bevan Trail network slated for logging in the next few weeks has caused a groundswell of opposition, especially on the Friends of Bevan Trails Facebook page.
The group believes the area needs to be preserved as a regional park for people and for wildlife.
“Our goal is to protect this region,” group member Devin Burton said. “There’s so much wildlife out there.”
There are two forms of ownership on the Puntledge River BC Hydro site, says Matthew Merritt, area manager for Hancock Forest Management. Private parties have owned the timber rights since BC Hydro acquired the property in 1953 to own and manage Comox Lake Dam. Since then, the private owners have changed several times. Hancock acquired the rights in 1995 to harvest timber on about 104 hectares.
Merritt notes that Hancock previously harvested on the site in 2016.
“We fully understand the public has grown accustomed to recreating within the company’s timber rights on trails that BC Hydro has accommodated and maintained,” Merritt said. “Prior to the 2016 harvest, we informed various groups of our harvest plans, and have done so again this time.”
The Friends of Bevan Trails has initiated a petition — Save Bevan Trail Network — which has, as of Oct. 9, generated nearly 1,900 signatures. The group hopes to start a society to protect the area, and to work with Hancock to reach an amicable agreement to save the trails.
“We’re not trying to form a protest or chain people to trees,” Burton said. “We want to have a meeting and discuss our options. We want to work with them, we don’t want to work against them.”
In a Facebook post, fellow group member Kevin Griessel suggests “putting our dollars where our feelings are” and purchasing the area to protect it — a strategy successfully employed by the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS).
Hancock is communicating with BC Hydro about the planned harvest. Company foresters have toured the site with representatives from BC Hydro, the Comox Valley Regional District, the Comox Lake Watershed Advisory Group, and the CCFS.
“Our harvest plan is not final because we are still considering feedback we have received, but at this point we anticipate harvesting about 7.5 hectares,” Merritt said. “Our current harvest planning for the site goes well beyond legal requirements.”
He anticipates Hancock will:
• Leave nearly double the legally required riparian buffer along the Puntledge River;
• Leave trees along the main river trail to screen the harvest area;
• Protect internal trails. For example, along major walking trails, it would retain smaller and some larger wind-firm trees, taking the safety of trail users into consideration;
• Maintain integrity, and connection of wetland and riparian habitats;
• Protect the public by signing and closing the area during harvest operations (approximately 14 days);
• Replant the same tree species and at a higher density than what is currently on site. Planting would occur the following spring.
BC Hydro said it is reviewing Hancock’s plans. Since the writ period for the provincial election has begun, BC Hydro is obligated to remain impartial at this time, and is not able to provide further comment.