The Friends of Strathcona Park are spreading misinformation about a proposal to upgrade the old Bedwell Creek trail and to conduct horse tours, says a Clayoquot Wilderness Resort spokesman.
“It’s time to set the record straight on what’s really going on,” said Jim DeHart, a Campbell River-based consultant for the resort.
The resort is expecting to receive approval in principal from BC Parks to refurbish the old trail, to build a new aluminum bridge and to lead twice-weekly tours using up to a dozen horses.
And the resort would also pick up the substantial cost.
“The resort would be investing more than $300,000 and would also take care of ongoing maintenance,” DeHart said.
The proposal planning process has been going on since 2006, but a decision is soon expected.
“BC Parks staff are currently completing their adjudication process and a final decision is expected in the near future,” wrote Andy Smith, the area supervisor for B.C. Parks, in an e-mail to the Mirror.
DeHart said it’s been frustrating dealing with the Friends of Strathcona Park, a group of outdoor enthusiasts who help maintain trails and advocate to keep the park as natural as possible.
“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.
In a letter which appeared in Wednesday’s paper, Stevenson also claimed the resort intends to “…basically turn the Bedwell Valley into a private playground in Strathcona Park for the virtually exclusive use of the resort and its guests.”
But that’s not true, said DeHart.
The trail would always be available for public use and the resort allows hikers to access the trailhead through its own private land on the West Coast.
And the trail, he added, is actually an old logging/mining road that requires some clearing and maintenance in order to accommodate twice-weekly horse tours.
As well, the resort wants to build tent pads and a composting toilet at the end of the road and these would also be available for public use.
The resort would minimize environmental impacts by giving the horses sterilized feed (to prevent the spread of seeds from non-native species) and would collect droppings along the trail.
The Bedwell Trail is the only hiking route across the mountainous spine of the park, but in recent years the West Coast portion has become overgrown. In fact, BC Parks closed the trail as well as the “living bridge” due to the state of disrepair.
Last summer, the Friends of Strathcona received approval to create a temporary secondary trail, in order to access and repair the original trail.
However, according to Smith, the Friends continued “clipping” the route further than they were allowed to do so.
“It was also explained that it may be difficult to justify more impacts with the creation of a second trail when there is an existing trail that if the (resort) proposal is approved, would result in an upgrade of that trail,” he wrote.
DeHart added the resort has taken considerable time to consult with all user groups and has made several changes to the original proposal based on those consultations. This included eliminating the request to ride mountain bikes along the trail.
He also pointed out the resort’s proposal has the support of the nearby Ahousat First Nation, which must be consulted on all matters in their traditional territory.
“Clayoquot Wilderness Resort has been really patient with this process,” said DeHart. “We’re expecting an approval in principle and that’s when the detailed engineering starts.”