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Strathcona Park horse debate settled

After seven years, a high-end resort will finally be allowed to conduct horse tours into Strathcona Provincial Park.

In 2006, Tofino-based Clayoquot Wilderness Resort applied to the province to take paying guests on guided horse tours along the Bedwell Creek trail.

Since then, they’ve battled the Friends of Strathcona Park which opposed the issuing of a permit to allow horses.

But on June 26, the BC Supreme Court ruled against the Friends and upheld the permit issued by the Ministry of the Environment and supported by BC Parks.

“The decision to issue a park use permit is a matter of discretion for the minister based on questions of mixed fact and law,” wrote Justice Jon Sigurdson in his decision. “The minister’s committee clearly had expertise to deal with this application. It appears to have considered all submissions, including, importantly, the Master Plan that received significant public input before it was amended in 2010.”

The resort’s application was also supported by the nearby Ahousaht First Nation, Strathcona Park Lodge and the Wilderness Tourism Association. However, the Friends of Strathcona expressed concern about using horses, public access and commercial use of the park.

“The Friends contend that a high-impact commercial horse operation doesn’t belong in a fragile rain forest valley in the park,” wrote Karl Stevenson of Royston on the Friends’ website.

Another member of the group, Marlene Smith, doesn’t expect the Friends to continue the legal challenge, but the group is considering its options.

“This is just one arrow in our quiver and it missed the mark. We have others,” she said during a phone interview Thursday. “It’s a unique trail – the only opportunity to hike from one side of the island to the other.”

A representative of the the resort was not available for comment at deadline.

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