OUT ON A LIMB: Sea, sun, sand and our wonderful provincial parks

Saratoga Beach has a wonderful informality to it

Okay, lots of places have sandy beaches. And lots of places have flat-calm, blue water but how many places have a ring of white-capped mountains around them covered over by a dome of azure sky?

Not many.

That was the scene Sunday evening at Saratoga Beach as we set up lawn chairs and gathered what little bits of firewood there was for a hot dog roast. The kids meanwhile, bolted down to the sand bar to wade, snorkel, swim and build a sandcastle. It’s really one of the most spectacular places around this area and with not a cloud in the sky, the many shades of blue in the sea, sky and mountains were too beautiful for words.

Saratoga Beach has a wonderful informality to it. It has minimal services, being a regional district park, but it works. It’s very popular but everyone gets along. There’s all manner of floating devices, dogs, kids in lifejackets bobbing along in the water, young men shooting across the water/beach margin on skimboards, kayakers and just about any other method of having fun on a beach that you could think of.

I wondered if nearby Miracle Beach Provincial Park would recoup any of the day-use visitors it lost when the province instituted a day-use fee a few years ago? That fee was rescinded this spring by new Premier Christy Clark and her family-friendly focus and maybe the people who were offended about having to pay twice for a public facility (our tax dollars built and maintain it; then we pay a day-use fee as well?) might go back to using it? Miracle Beach became the exclusive use of the campers in the adjacent campground while the parking lot was left virtually empty as people refused to pay the day-use fee.

Throughout that period Saratoga kept humming along with hundreds of beach blankets, sunshades and sandcastles setting up each day.

And speaking of parks, Strathcona Provincial Park has a number of events coming up during this its 100th anniversary. Many of those events are being put on by non-governmental organizations because the province has been cheaping out on our provincial park system for far too long now. I don’t remember being given a choice between having my tax dollars spent on our wonderful provincial parks or on a million dollar salary for the BC Ferry service boss (the same position that in Washington State gets compensated around $140,000). I missed that referendum.

But don’t let the government’s neglect keep you away from Strathcona Park. It’s an amazing wilderness that’s still accessible right on our back door. Environmental group the Friends of Strathcona Park have some events for Aug. 20 to celebrate our park and I hope you all saw the article we had on Wednesday promoting a day to celebrate the park’s accessible trails in Paradise Meadows on Aug. 21.

Strathcona’s less accessible places are receiving attention from FOSP as well as they continue to upgrade the Bedwell River Trail. This year, they’re having a work party to clear part of the trail from Bedwell Lake to the Ashwood River, a total of about six kilometres.

The trail was originally cleared by the FOSP in 1994 but collapsing bridges, road washouts and a lack of maintenance have seen the trail deteriorate  to the point that it has been closed by BC Parks for the past three years.

I can attest to the poor trail. Three years ago, I hiked the trail as part of a cross-Vancouver Island trip I did with 1st Campbell River Venturers. We paddled from Tofino to the mouth of the Bedwell River and then hiked from there up the river valley and over the central Vancouver Island mountains to Buttle Lake before reuniting with our canoes to paddle and portage our way to the mouth of the Campbell River.

It was a great trip but we had a devil of a time trying to find the trail after we passed the point where it had been washed out by the river.

It really would be a fantastic asset to the park to have a good trail from Bedwell Inlet to Buttle Lake.

The issue for FOSP, of course, is the licence given to a commercial resort at the head of Bedwell Inlet to run horses up and down the Bedwell River Valley on the route that the old hiking trail used to go (and still does in some places). This is contrary to the park’s master plan which was developed with public input.

If you’re interested in helping out, the FOSP are taking reasonably fit volunteers to give about six days of their time to work party (endorsed by BC Parks) that would clear brush on a section of the trail. Call Kel Kelly at 250-337-8348 or e-mail kelkelly55@yahoo.ca if you want to help. You have to be able to camp out for the duration of the project. Sounds like it would be fun though.

 

Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror