During a recent visit to the Northeast Woods in Comox, a woman and her husband came across a mountain biker who was cutting down trees. When they told the person he was doing something illegal, the man replied that he was a steward of the forest and had permission from Comox parks superintendent Andrew Burger.
Burger, however, says no such permission was granted.
This was not the first time that the couple or Burger have encounterd people damaging trees or vegetation in the NE Woods.
“This is such a blatant case of cut and slash for their own purpose,” said the woman, who prefers to remain anonymous. “They’re clearly cutting back big amounts of tree limbs. Unfortunately, a lot of them are cedars, which are struggling now with climate change and drought. It’s sad to see that there’s extensive damage happening.”
It appears that mountain bikers are cutting trees just to improve visibility around corners, she added.
On one occasion, the woman saw a man with a young boy cutting trees with a small chainsaw.
“It’s changing the landscape in there. I’m not saying all mountain bikers, but they’re definitely the ones who stand to gain the most — gain anything in doing this. Walkers are in it for stopping and smelling the roses, bikers are in there for a different reason. They like the challenge of riding, they like the speed. I’d hate to see the place turn into a mountain bike park. That’s not the intent…These people seem to feel they can go in with impunity.”
Burger cannot confirm the reasoning behind the cutting, or if it is associated with one particular user group over another, but he has intervened on multiple occasions since January.
“As I’ve informed the individuals who were attempting to cut trees, all vegetation removal is prohibited as the NE Woods is a protected park and conservation area,” Burger said.
The Northeast Woods Lazo Marsh Conservation Area comprises about 186 hectares of land under three jurisdictions: the regional district, Town of Comox and the B.C. government. About one-third of the area contains trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
“This area was set aside as a wildlife management area for the protection of the ecosystem and wildlife,” said Barbara Price, president of the Friends of Comox-Lazo Forest Reserve Society (FOCLFR). “We work together so people can enjoy the many possible uses of this area, but primarily it is a wildlife management area. I cannot strongly enough urge that people stop. It is very destructive of this area.”
Burger hopes to post signs at various locations to remind users not to remove trees or vegetation in order to preserve the natural integrity of the NE Woods.
Parks users are asked to contact Comox Parks (250-339-2421) or the CVRD (334-6000) if they observe any hazardous trees or conditions.
For more information about the NE Woods, visit bit.ly/39Jf9Og or the Town of Comox website (comox.ca) under ‘Things to do’ and ‘Parks and fields.’