The Beaver Lodge Land Trust Committee wants School District 72 to return the McPhedran School property to the Crown to restore it to the Beaver Lodge Lands.
The five acre property on MacPhedran Road borders the Beaver Lodge Lands.
“Most people in town I’m sure would have no idea that there is a political boundary of that piece of land but not at all a geographical boundary,” said Sandra Milligan, a member of the committee.
Milligan and Ron Burrell made a presentation to the school board at its most recent public meeting.
“This site does have a lot of ecological value,” Milligan said. “It is very very wet. There are no trails in this area which is really really good in terms of not being encroached upon by humans. It’s got a huge amount of water storage, which ensures that Simms Creek stays wet during the summer and in the early fall when our Coho are coming up and for the Coho young. This piece of land is really important to ensure the salmon in Simms Creek… survive.”
Burrell was working for the ministry of forestry at the time that the property was purchased by the school district, in 1999, and is a past president of the committee.
“I’m afraid that if you keep delaying this, you get new players all the time the sensitivities won’t be there, the file will be lost, you don’t know who will be in power, you don’t know what governments will be in,” he said. “I think you have an opportune time now to return the land to the Beaver Lodge Lands and probably come out of it without any harm.”
The Beaver Lodge Lands were given to the government in 1931 by the Elk River Timber Company. The property was to be used only for experimental reforestation and forest management.
“They started planting trees, two men per tree, one guy carrying the tree the other guy carrying the shovel,” Burrell said. “We will do some of that same stuff, we still plant with shovels.”
The project caved during the depression and the file was archived in Victoria.
“When I came on (to the forestry ministry) in ‘85 I was in charge of releasing little pieces of it because the town was expanding,” Burrell said.
The file documenting the land trust designation was rediscovered and the city’s plans to develop houses on the Beaver Lodge Lands property were put to rest, with some stipulations, Burrell said: Dogwood St. had to be connected to Jubilee, and properties had to be set aside for North Island College as well as a school off of MacPhedran. A school was was never built on MacPhedran, and in the SD72’s recent facility plan they listed disposing of surplus properties, including the MacPhedran site, as one of their priorities.
“At this time in our lives where we hear nothing but habitat loss and ecological degradation, this is an opportunity for the school district to actually add habitat, to increase the size of a protected area in our community, which is arguably the most used recreational area in our community,” Milligan said.
The school board will be discussing the presentation further in a future private meeting.