On Monday, Aug. 20 Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird made an important announcement for the people who live in the Comox Valley:
“Maple Lake has long been on our radar for more than 20 years and now we are taking action to preserve it as a public park. With the cooperation of the owner, Hancock Timber, and support from many community organizations we hope to purchase these lands to further the conservation of the community’s natural spaces and biodiversity.”
Baird stated a committee will be formed with broad representation from the community at large to lead fundraising efforts to purchase the lake and surrounding lands from Hancock Timber. The owners have agreed to begin negotiations in 2013.
As pointed out by Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, Maple Lake is the largest urban lake north of Nanaimo. It is situated in the Village of Cumberland and the broader Comox Valley Regional District that includes the City of Courtenay and the Town of Comox.
It has a surface area of 28 ha (69 ac) and at its deepest section that covers most of the central body of water it is about 30 to 35 feet deep. It is spring fed and is the source of wetlands and Maple Creek that run through the village on its way to the Trent River.
It gives much pleasure to canoeists, kayakers, bird watchers and anglers. It is the home territory of a multitude of birds including loons, mergansers, ospreys, eagles, many species of ducks, geese, forest birds, crayfish, sticklebacks, trout, snakes, black bears, deer, squirrels, mink, martin, otters and certainly visited by cougars and wolves.
It is stocked with catchable rainbow trout on a regular schedule by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia. (Note: This society is a Crown corporation whose mandate is to stock our freshwater lakes with fish).
Since it is currently a working forest it has the potential to become a major nature and ecological centre for the future residents of the Comox Valley.
Heavily used urban lakes that come to mind are Elk Lake in the Victoria area and Long Lake that is situated beside the highway in Nanaimo. Both lakes are surrounded by developments but still provide much freshwater recreation for their respective urban residents.
One of the unique qualities of Maple Lake is that it currently has no construction or urban housing on its shoreline. In this regard, the announcement from the Village of Cumberland is both timely and opportunistic.
If you want to get a sense of perspective of this lake as a freshwater fishing destination, a drive on the highway to Gold River west of Campbell River will bring you to Echo Lake, which is slightly smaller than Maple Lake but is heavily used by the recreational public in spite of its location between major industrial travel routes on both sides.
Another perspective would be to look at the continuous use and recreation that is provided by Spider Lake just off the Horne Lake Road near Parksville. Spider Lake has limited rural residences on the east side but is protected by a provincial park on the west side. It gets tens of thousands of hours of healthy outdoors recreational use throughout the year.
The Comox Valley currently has The MacDonald Wood and the Mac Lang Park on Brooklyn Creek in Comox, the walkways along the estuary of the Courtenay River, the Ducks Unlimited Farm and Puntledge River walkways in Courtenay.
Maple Lake has the potential to greatly enhance our nature contacts with its rich natural freshwater habitat resources. We owe it to future generations of Valley residents to bring this visionary, ambitious project of Mayor Leslie Baird and the Village of Cumberland council to fruition.
What a wonderful place for bullhead fishers to expand their angling careers and for seniors to easily access some good trout fishing. I respectfully suggest there is room for everybody on Maple Lake.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.