Read Island resident Lannie Keller admires one of the old-growth cedar trees she and her fellow community members are trying to preserve by purchasing the 20-acre Lot 302, which abuts the already-protected Lot 309, purchased by the community in 1992. Photo submitted

Read Islanders look to purchase, preserve 20 more acres of forest lands

Campaign has raised over $97K of $115K goal to add to the $50K already donated by local family

There may be fewer than 100 full-time residents on the small, forest-covered rock just the other side of Quadra known as Read Island, but when they put their hearts into something, they are apparently a formidable force.

Because of the many low-lying areas chock full of old-growth timber, easily accessible to logging equipment, Read Island has historically been a forestry company’s dream, according to resident Rosie Steeves. In fact, Steeves says, back in the 1980s, the island was given the unwelcome distinction of being home to the largest clear cut on any island on the coast of B.C.

So the residents decided to do something about it. In 1992, Surge Narrows residents raised $78,000 to purchase 20 acres of what Steeves calls “critical fish and forest habitat,” and created the island’s first conservation area, the Lot 309 Fish and Forest Reserve.

And now they’re trying to do it again.

A neighbouring piece of property – also 20 acres in size – owned by long-term residents Derek and Pat D’Altroy, was recently going up for sale, so the community decided to join forces once again to purchase the property before it could be scooped up by a logging company, Steeves says.

“Local residents acted quickly, and Surge Narrows Community Association have signed an agreement with the D’Altroys to purchase the land for $150,000, a fraction of the assessed timber value,” Steeves says in the GoFundMe campaign she began back in October.

Between local kayak adventure company Coast Mountain Expeditions and one local family, Ralph and Lannie Keller, the group immediately had $50,000 to put towards the purchase for a deposit on the land – known as Lot 302 – along with bridge funding while the community raises the balance.

Since October when the campaign launched, they’ve managed to raise over $97,000 of their $115,000 goal to complete the purchase of Lot 302. The purchase of this land would create a 60-acre corridor of protected land that would run from Surge Narrows dock to the far boundary of the existing reserve at the headwaters of Read Island’s most important salmon streams, Steeves says, joining Lot 309 with the school property, the John Kim Nature Sanctuary and the Surge Narrows Store Regional Park.

The fact that this small community has raised that much money for the cause is just astounding, Steeves says.

“Initially the goal was $100,000, but then we realized, hold on a minute, we’ve gotta put covenants on the property, and there’s going to be legal expenses, and then signage, so we changed it to $115,000 so we can make sure we can protect it legally and have all our bases covered.

“What is really cool is that there’s hardly anybody here,” she continues, “and there are people who live on this island who have hardly any money and they’ve given incredible amounts toward this cause. For years, this island has been logged, and suddenly, this small little community has said, ‘no.’ It’s been incredible to see how people have rallied and become proactive instead of reactive to what’s going on. It’s created a wonderful sense of community spirit.”

After the property is purchased, it will become property of the Strathcona Regional District and have a conservation covenant placed on the property to restrict development to “environmentally sensitive trails that will guide locals, student groups and visitors through the area,” according to the fundraising campaign page, along with information signage and possibly a small shelter and/or outhouse.

Because the Surge Narrows Community Association is a registered charity, all donations are eligible for a tax receipt, Steeves says, and there are now also “Lot 302” T-Shirts available for purchase for $25 to benefit the campaign, featuring art by local resident Zephyr Polk – a redesign of the original motif developed for the Lot 309 fundraising campaign back in 1992.

The shirts are available by contacting Lannie Keller at coastmtn@island.net or you can pick one up at the Surge Narrows Post Office.

If you’re not interested in a shirt, the group has also gathered up some items for an online auction that will last until Feb. 15 at www.32auctions.com/SNCA-Lot302. Items on offer range from massages to homemade cinnamon buns, whale watching excursions to hand-made bar stools, eight hours of house cleaning to dinner at the Heriot Bay Inn.

For more information on the campaign, visit the GoFundMe page or contact Steeves by email at rosie@executiveworks.org

RELATED: SRD wants to develop wildfire plans for more areas

RELATED: SRD looks to restore site at Read Island



miked@campbellrivermirror.com

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