Minister Steve Thomson:
First of all, thank you Minister Thomson for stating the government’s position on the expansion of Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park, as published in Coast Reporter on Oct. 7. The Sunshine Coast Community Forest is very concerned about another 1,500 to 2,500-hectare park. The loggers in particular are being portrayed as uncaring and insensitive to community wishes, yet the logging industry helped build and continues to contribute to our communities.
Protesters have elevated their remarks and actions to the point of bullying and defying injunctions. Their words and actions have been very inflammatory, including lighting fire to a roadblock made of logs. That action was truly insensitive given the Sechelt Fire of 2015 where we lost a good friend in the only firefighting fatality in B.C. last year.
We have been hearing a lot about a park; however, what is not discussed is that if a park is granted, not only do we lose family jobs, we also lose full public access to much of the area. A local example is how the Tetrahedron and Spipiyus parks’ access has been severely restricted on trails; and there was an article in Coast Reporter (Sept. 30) regarding a legal challenge to the SCRD’s plan to augment community water from Chapman Lake, which is in a Class A park. If a community cannot access water, that is a clear signal to be cautious on creating more parkland.
The Sunshine Coast has one of largest trail networks in the province, second to Whistler, and most of this trail system is within Crown lands not in a park. If we are able to grow recreational sports and be a bona fide force for the tourism/adventure economy, having another park could severely limit access. Our lower Coast area now has over 20 per cent protected area when considering provincial and local parks, wildlife protected areas and Old Growth Management Areas, as compared to the provincial stated goal of approximately 14 per cent.
For the past couple of years, ELF has been lobbying our local politicians and the B.C. government, stating that their wishes represent the wishes of the whole community. That is simply not the case.
As for the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, our tenure comes from the provincial government, with co-operation from the Sechelt First Nations, and our returns go back to the community via our SCCF Legacy Fund in partnership with the District of Sechelt.
I am not against parks, but we need a balance of jobs, recreation and amenities for a community to prosper and deliver fair opportunities to all.
Glen Bonderud, president, SC Community Forest