The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society would like the former Field Sawmill site returned to a natural state and protected for long-term conservation.
Located on the banks of the Courtenay River near the 17th Street Bridge, the 8.39-acre property is adjacent to an area known as Hollyhock Marsh. It’s owned by International Forest Products (Interfor) and up for sale with Colliers International for $3.5 million.
The society proposes to create an engineered wetland for salmon rearing and refuge. Removing sheet piling along the riverbank would prevent seals from trapping and killing salmon.
The project was featured in the Jan. 13 edition of the Record (Campbell River supplies blueprint for reversion of sawmill site, see bit.ly/1ukzW4X).
“Right now, it’s a killing field for salmon,” estuary co-ordinator Jennifer Sutherst said in a presentation to Courtenay council Feb. 2.
Pavement would be replaced with saltmarsh, shrubs, trees and a natural, sloping riverbank. The plan also includes trails, bike paths and signage.
“This vision, we feel, is achievable,” Sutherst said. “It’s a strategic piece of land in terms of ecological value. We have a unique opportunity here.”
The idea would mirror the Baikie Island restoration project at the Campbell River Estuary, which she considers more complicated.
According to Project Watershed, native vegetation and restored riparian areas would form a natural barrier against flooding and storm surge. A restored site would also generate tourism revenue.
She feels the site is not suited to development due to flooding, height restrictions and habitat degradation.
“I’m 100 per cent supportive of this project,” Coun. Doug Hillian said. “I think it would be a tremendous amenity to this area.”
The society is asking council to support the project in principle, and to appoint a member to liaise with a community committee.
“We need partners and political will,” Sutherst said.
Council referred the matter for a staff report which is expected to appear on the Feb. 16 agenda.