Buy parkland now or watch ‘special places’ become inaccessible

Dear editor,

The Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Steering Committee supports the CVRD plan for purchasing lands for parks.

Dear editor,

Re: CVRD parks acquisition.

The Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Steering Committee supports the CVRD Parks and Greenways Plan for purchasing lands for parks.

The Comox Valley enjoys a relative abundance of natural areas and a rich biologically diverse landscape.

What most people do not realize is that almost all of this natural beauty is privately owned. With the exception of Strathcona Provincial Park, which protects a good selection of high elevation areas, only two per cent of low-elevation lands in the Valley are protected.

Unlike most of B.C., there is almost no Crown land in the Valley.  Crown land was given away as part of the deal for the construction of the railway when British Columbia joined Canada in 1871.

Fortunately, the Valley has some great regional parks such as Seal Bay, Goose Spit and Nymph Falls Nature Park.

However, there are many other “special places” that happen to be on private land, such as Stotan Falls, most of the Comox Lake watershed and access to the Comox Glacier Trail to name a few.

It is getting more and more difficult to access these areas as private land owners contend with liability issues, damage caused by unmanaged use and conflicts between development for private use v.s. public use and conservation.

As the population in the Valley grows, more people will want to access natural areas and parks. Along with population growth comes increased pressure for development in natural areas. Land adjacent to natural amenities such as rivers, lakes and mature forests are more desirable places to live.

If money is not put aside for purchase of parkland now, over time, we will see many of the Valley’s “special places” become inaccessible or lost to development.

The CVRD is expecting to raise $14.3 million over the next 17 years for purchase of parkland.  The park acquisition parcel tax recently implemented by the CVRD will contribute $199,500 per year or $3.4 million over 17 years to this fund.

Recent purchases of parkland indicate that $14.3 million over the next 17 years will only provide for a modest increase in parklands.

For example, the Town of Comox and the Nature Trust spent $2.4 million on purchase of Mac Laing Park.

The CVRD purchase of the Royston Colliery Trail this year was over $600,000. The Cumberland Community Forest Society is currently raising $1.2 million to purchase 50 hectares of forest land.

Land is expensive and it is not likely to decrease in value over time. The sooner we are able to purchase lands with high ecological and recreation values the less it will cost us and future generations later on.

David Stapley

Editor’s note: David Stapley is the program manager of the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Steering Committee.