The current political season will come to a brief close on May 14, when they pause to count the votes and declare some dedicated soul a winner in the provincial election.
A short time ago we held municipal elections and the winners of that limited entry event are currently holding court in Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox and the regional district. We also had a federal election not long ago and one member from the Valley was chosen to represent our interests on the national stage.
For over 20 years I, along with many others, have been involved in promoting Maple Lake as an urban lake that should be part of the Valley’s recreational offering. In all that time I have yet to meet a politician who did not support the concept that it should be in the public domain. Elections come and go, but the ethereal concept of Maple Lake for the public at large remains an unachieved illusion.
The reality of the situation is quite different. Maple Lake and the surrounding forest lands are the property of Hancock Timber Ltd., a large forestry investment company headquartered in the United States. It is my understanding the lake and property are for sale.
When you enter the small forest there is a sign informing you that you are on private property and that the forest may be used for hiking, biking and horseback riding. You are also requested to not leave any garbage. I find no fault with their rules and urge users to respect them because, after all, you are on private property.
We recently had a rude reminder of private property rights when the owners of the land bordering Stoten Falls closed all access to the area. There is a stout iron gate at the entrance of the tunnel on the road to Maple Lake that is locked at 8 p.m. on a daily basis to stop rowdy behaviour.
In the past the land has been abused and mistreated by trespassers that put the generous access policies of Hancock Timber at risk. This column would like to sincerely express appreciation to Hancock Timber for their current policy of public access to Maple Lake.
As a result of recent boundary expansions, the lake has been removed from the regional district and is now part of the Village of Cumberland. On Aug. 20, 2012, Mayor Leslie Baird of Cumberland announced a committee would be formed with broad representation from the community at large to lead fundraising efforts to purchase the lake and surrounding lands from Hancock Timber.
In the picture I ran with my column of the event there were current provincial, regional and municipal politicians plus the late Keith McKenzie, president of the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association (CDFGPA) that also supports the concept of public ownership. Regrettably I do not know the status of the committee or what kind of progress is being made in the generations-long process of achieving public status for Maple Lake.
Maple Lake’s status as a fishing lake is significant. The lake is regularly stocked with catchable rainbow trout by the Freshwaters Fisheries Society of British Columbia, a Crown corporation that stocks lakes throughout the province.
In a recent conversation with Scot Silvistri, small lakes biologist with the Ministry of the Environment, he told me that Maple Lake ranks number six in the top 10 small lakes on the Island and that Spider was number 10. Small lakes in urban areas are important generators of business in fishing tackle and related support material.
Please, politicians – let’s get on with the job of putting Maple Lake into the public domain. We should not have to wait another generation.
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Congratulations to Greg Sawchuck for receiving the Bert Palmer Big Game Trophy at the British Columbia Wildlife Convention in Richmond last month. Greg won his award for taking in fair chase a Roosevelt elk that scored 340 points on the international Boone and Crocket scoring system. This magnificent animal was taken on a limited entry hunt near Gold River.
It is significant the Greg has been one of the leaders in the CDFGPA’s Roosevelt elk Transplant Program on Vancouver Island, for which the club also won a conservation award.
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.