New plan for the ‘heart’ of Hornby Island

The “heart of Hornby” now has a plan after three years of work and consultations.

The Mount Geoffrey Nature Park and Crown Land Trails Management Plan was presented Monday to the Comox Valley Regional District’s electoral areas services committee.

The current park master plan for the Mount Geoffrey Nature Park was adopted in 1998, with a minor amendment in 2004.

Regional District staff worked closely with BC Parks staff, a parks planning committee and the K’omoks First Nation to develop and refine content of a draft plan that was presented last year.

Public consultation was extensive. It began in the summer of 2014 with an online survey and questionnaire and community outreach at the Hornby Co-op.

The consultations continued for the next three years.

“The protection of the natural ecosystem and the sustainability of the recreational trail experience were identified as important to Hornby Island residents,” noted a report prepared by regional district planning staff.

“Islanders also recognized the critical role that Mount Geoffrey plays in the capturing of rainwater and subsequent recharging of the island aquifers”.

Geographically, Mount Geoffrey lies at the heart of the Hornby Island and at the northern extent of the provincially rare Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimactic zone.

“Today, very few older forest ecosystems like Mount Geoffrey remain in the CDF zone, and those that do are highly fragmented,” said the report.

The park itself protects 33 hectares of mature Douglas-fir forest, coastal bluffs and several small seasonal wetlands and creeks. The park is also home to several species at risk.

An extensive 22-km trail network stretches through the park, connecting with a further 18 km of trails within the Crown lands to the east and 10 km of trails within Mount Geoffrey Escarpment Provincial Park to the south for a total of 50 km of recreational trails.

These trails are used for wildlife viewing, walking, mountain biking and horseback riding – all non-motorized uses.

Mark Harrison, parks and active transportation planner for the regional district, said he thinks the plan “recognizes the critical role Mount Geoffrey plays to the Hornby Island community.”

Future work at the park remains minimal, although islanders have indicated they would like “wayfinding” improved with additional directional signage on the trails and information kiosk maps at key park locations.

Other improvements such as outhouses, picnic areas or parking lot expansion were viewed as not necessary or a low priority.

Electoral Area A director Bruce Jolliffe, under whose purview Hornby Island falls, noted that the new plan is a “made on Hornby Island solution”.

“I’ve heard kudos from the community on how this moved forward,” he said.

He thanked regional district parks staff for being able to “capture all the sensitivities” and “making sure we had covered our bases as well as we could.”

He also thanked the Hornby Island community “for really working hard.”

Jolliffe said Mount Geoffrey park is a “huge asset” and “quite a recreational hub”.

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