There was a significant gathering of people in bike helmets on the lawn of City Hall before Monday’s meeting of city council.
They were in attendance because council was receiving a report from staff surrounding concerns about proposed logging in the core area of the Snowden Demonstration Forest, a popular area for mountain biking that some say has the ability to be a huge economic driver for the community.
Unless, they say, it’s all been logged.
Garry Ullstrom is at the centre of the opposition to the proposed logging around the trails, and he says the community is speaking up before it’s too late to save what he sees as an under-appreciated regional gem.
“This is just a little rally to let people express their support for Snowden and its trails,” Ullstrom says. “It’s not a protest and there’s no anger, we’re just starting a dialogue with the city and the regional district to get them to recognize the values that are inherent in Snowden. We’re not here to berate them, we’re just here to encourage them and show them that people do care.”
Not only does our community benefit from having this trail system at our doorstep by being able to enjoy it ourselves, Ullstrom says, but it could also become a huge economic driver for our economy if we take care of it and promote it as a destination for tourism.
“When I started looking into it, I was shocked to find out that mountain biking generates $46 million per year in visitor spending on mountain biking: $10 million per year in Squamish; $12 million on the North Shore of Vancouver. I’m hearing from operators here who bring people in from all over the world and they stop in Snowden and take pictures of the trees because they don’t have a forest like that back home,” Ullstrom says.
“I just want the decision (on logging it) to not be made unknowingly. It needs to be a conscious decision where we’ve weighed all the values.”
Council decided that sounded like a good idea, too. In receiving the staff report from Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s long range planning and sustainability manager, which recommended council request presentations from BC Timber Sales, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNROD), as well as Ullstrom himself, so they can be better informed about what’s being planned, council went one step further, deciding to both accept those recommendations as well as send a letter to FLNROD asking for operations in the demonstration forest to be suspended until a plan can be put in place for the area’s long-term management.
Coun. Michele Babchuk, who also serves as the chair of the board of the Strathcona Regional District (SRD), says the SRD will be receiving a similar report and hearing from Ullstrom directly at their meeting on Wednesday this week, since Snowden is located within Electoral Area A.
“I’ve already spoken with Area A director Gerald Whalley, who is very much looking forward to the presentation by Mr. Ullsrom on Wednesday,” Babchuk says.