Act Now to Save the Juan de Fuca Trail

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

My name is Cam Gray, and I am very excited to join the Wilderness Committee’s Victoria Office as the new Vancouver Island Outreach Coordinator.

I grew up in the West Shore of Victoria, where I graduated from Belmont Senior Secondary School. As a teenager, I fell in love with the wild west coast and learned to appreciate the beauty and power of the north Pacific Ocean and its coastal communities.

I am eager to work with the Wilderness Committee to ensure that future generations will have access to the same beautiful world I grew up in. Today I'm writing you about saving our forests. There is an urgent need to protect an iconic part of Vancouver Island, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, which is under threat from a massive tourist development.

For me, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is the perfect place to enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of this province. As an islander, I grew up hiking, exploring and discovering surf spots along this pristine trail and would be heartbroken to see this area developed. The rolling hills, rocky beaches and towering trees are a valuable part of our island home and provide adventure and retreat to so many people and animals.

The Juan de Fuca lands, which surround and include the Marine Trail, are an essential piece of the Capital Regional District's (CRD) natural beauty. But a new proposed tourist resort that would stretch alongside seven kilometers of this beautiful trail, between China Beach and Sobrimo Beach, threatens this natural jewel.

West Vancouver developer Ender Ilkay and the Marine Trail Holding group want to build nearly 300 tourist cabins within viewing of the public trail. The proposal calls for tree line “trimming” to ensure ocean view for the new home owners, and relocation of the trail in several places to steeper banks. The project will also cut through swaths of old growth trees.

The fight to protect the land in the Juan de Fuca area has been a heated battle since the forest lands in the area were removed from the Tree Farm License by Western Forest Products. The company preceded to put our wild heritage up for sale on the real estate market. Since then we have fought to protect the Sooke Hills, Jordan River and the pockets of old growth that remain standing. We have written letters, called our representatives and packed rooms to demand that the spectacular beauty of the West Coast be saved for future generations.

And we have earned victories. Last year the CRD purchased 2350 hectares of land from Western Forest Products to protect the lands around Jordan River, the Sooke Potholes and Weeks Lake. The CRD also strengthened its regional growth strategy in the unincorporated Juan De Fuca Lands to restrict large-scale development like this proposed resort.

After all this positive momentum from the CRD, it is hard to comprehend why they would cave to a major developer now. Instead of standing by their commitment to protect these precious lands, it appears they will overturn their regional growth strategy at the very first chance.

Because of a loophole in the CRD bylaws, the decision on whether or not this project will go ahead won’t even be made by the whole CRD board. It is shocking that the decision that will impact all of Vancouver Island’s ability to access this park will be made by a sub-committee of the board, chaired by the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director, Mike Hicks, and the four mayors representing the adjacent communities.

We must take a stand against this project, not just to protect the integrity of the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail, but to ensure that the CRD does not open up this entire regional to large scale development. We need a strong vision for sustainability in the Juan de Fuca lands that protects wild places – like the Juan de Fuca Trail, the Red Creek Fir and Avatar Grove. Developments like this have no place on Vancouver Island’s wild coast.

Please write a letter to members of the CRD board today and let them know how you feel about this project.

Cam Gray | Vancouver Island Public Outreach Coordinator
Wilderness Committee