Bedwell Trail Update, August 2014

Unfortunately, someone has recently removed most of the ribbons marking the Bedwell Centennial Trail.  The identity of this “someone” isn’t hard to guess.   As long as the Centennial Trail exists and is being used and enjoyed by hikers, it hurts the government claim that a commercial trail is necessary.  Obviously a trail CAN be created for non-commercial reasons by non-commercial park users.  At the present time, despite the removal of many ribbons, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is still usable, and it’s still being used, but it’s not as easy to follow over its entire length as it was when the ribbons were in place.  The trail also needs some maintenance clipping in spots where salmon berry bushes have put out new growth.  Until improvements are made, it’s not a trail for less savvy hikers.  Hopefully this will be a temporary situation.  

For me, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is, and always has been, a political trail.  Ever since the government opened the valley to logging, then dumped it from the park “because it had no park value because it had been logged,” then were forced to return it to the park after the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, I’ve enjoyed watching the Bedwell Valley gradually healing itself from the massive commercial impacts which have been inflicted upon it.

In the years since the Bedwell was clear-cut logged, it’s felt very good to look down from the surrounding heights and see the forces of nature steadily working to destroy the old logging bridges and large sections of the defunct logging road.  It’s been good for my spirit to watch the valley gradually covering the huge, ugly logging scars with new trees.  I’ve enjoyed thinking that perhaps, if we left it alone for a few hundred years, the Bedwell Valley might once again become what it was; a beautiful, wild, west coast rainforest valley, with wolves, bears, and herds of elk free to carry out their lives, without being messed about by humans. 

The Bedwell Valley, like most of Strathcona Park, has endured a rough history.

After having spent most of my life in the park trying to ignore industrial garbage, blast holes, logging slashes, logged and dammed lakes, discarded fuel drums, entire abandoned mining camps with tons of rusting machinery leaking various fluids, it’s become obvious to me that the government idea of the purpose of Strathcona Park is much different than mine.  Governments pretend otherwise for political reasons, but their actions (and the garbage, clear-cuts, and other gruesome reminders) speak for themselves. 

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that almost every government action, since Strathcona Park was created in 1911, has been directed toward opening the park to commercial and industrial interests.  The physical damage is plainly seen in almost every corner of the park.  Historically, whenever someone produced a scheme for making money from the park, governments have always been quick to open the way.

This happened recently when government altered the Strathcona Park Master Plan to allow a commercial operation into the Bedwell Valley.  Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) wanted to extend their dude ranch operation into the park, and petitioned the government for permission.  The resort wanted to build a high-impact horse trail into the Bedwell for the use of their clients.  A foot trail already existed, but it had been closed by the government because a vital link in the trail (the last remaining logging bridge across the Bedwell River) was on the verge of collapsing into the river.

Leaving aside the question of whether the proposed high-impact trail was needed or wanted by anyone but the resort, the government said the resort proposal was the only feasible way to make a trail in the Bedwell.  Building and maintaining the trail and the vital bridge, government said, was too expensive – the government said it had no funds for parks – and impossible for volunteers.  

This was the government line, but non-commercial park users thought otherwise.  They believed that, after years of commercial abuse, the valley deserved to be free from high-impact commercial operations.  They agreed with the Strathcona Park Master Plan which (even after it was altered by the government to open the way for the resort/dude ranch proposal) held that Minimal Human Impact was an essential guiding principle for Strathcona Park.

I believe that the government was mostly wrong, but they were right that huge bridges like the one the loggers needed (and a horse trail would require) are very costly, probably too costly for volunteers.  But a volunteer built trail was far from impossible.  The solution was actually quite simple.  The volunteer trail builders figured it out quickly.  There was no need for a volunteer trail to cross the river.  Voila.  If the trail doesn’t cross the river, a costly, intrusive bridge becomes unnecessary and irrelevant.  After weeks of intensive scouting, volunteers laid out a scenic route which skirted numerous bluffs and other obstacles, and stayed on the southeast side of the Bedwell River, all the way from Bedwell Lake to the Strathcona Park boundary.  Downstream from the park, not far from the ocean, the trail makes one river crossing, on an existing bridge.      

As I said earlier, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is a political trail.  Stopping governments isn’t easy, as many of us learned during the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, but sometimes it’s possible.  The Bedwell Trail was built in an effort to stop the government from opening the Bedwell Valley to yet another intrusive commercial enterprise.  Despite the government line, it’s not necessary to invite high-impact commercial operations into the park.  Volunteers CAN build a trail in the Bedwell.  They did it.  The trail is there.  Of course the government (or someone connected with government – isn’t transparency wonderful?) would like it gone.  As long as the trail exists and is being used by the public, it shows that (despite the government line) it’s not necessary to allow a commercial outfit to build a high-impact commercial trail into the park for commercial purposes.  The Bedwell Centennial Trail (or Alpine to Ocean Trail, call it what you will) is a practical, low-impact, non-commercial, easily maintained trail, and it’s entirely built by volunteers and hasn’t cost the public a cent.  So far, unfortunately, the trail hasn’t achieved its political objective, but who knows?  

Meanwhile, for those who feel so inclined, it might be helpful to send your thoughts on the situation to wherever (or whomever) you think will do the most good.  Remember, letters sent to government are never seen again.  If you do the work of writing a letter, please use it fully.  Send it where it might be seen by others.  Send it to newspapers, etcetera, as well as government.  There’s a list of possible recipients on the FOSP web-site.  I thank you.  Karl Stevenson.  

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | August 2, 2012

Bedwell Trail Guide

A Very Small Bit of Bedwell Valley History

Strathcona Park has a long history of commercial exploitation.  Corporations have always done the damage, but governments have always been to blame.  it’s simple.  Corporations aren’t supposed to protect parks, governments are.  If government doesn’t open the doors, corporations can’t move in.

In the Bedwell,  the government opened the doors to mining and logging, then dumped the valley from the park, saying it had low park value because it had been logged. The Strathcona Blockade of 1988 forced them to put the Bedwell back.  Since then, the valley has been slowly healing itself.  In a few hundred years it’ll be as good as new.  It simply requires us to leave it alone.

This isn’t happening.  The government has been working to open the Bedwell Valley to yet another commercial operation.  This one, (Clayoquot Wilderness Resort) is owned (according to Google) by Richard Genovese and “the Genovese Family Trust.”  Google describes Richard as a “venture capitalist” originally from Toronto and Monaco.  I’ve tried to learn more about Richard and the Genovese Family Trust but I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful.  I find this disturbing.  Why is it so hard to learn anything about who and what our government seems so determined  to allow into Strathcona Park?

Volunteers have worked hard for years creating the Bedwell Centennial Trail as a practical model of a low-disturbance trail suitable for the Bedwell Valley.   Now the government has granted a permit to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort to build a high-impact, high-disturbance commercial trail.  This is being fought in court.

It remains to be seen whether the commercial trail will ever be built.  The financial powers behind the resort may finally realize (even if the government doesn’t) that the project makes no practical or financial sense, and, if it’s built, it’ll clearly be harmful to the park.  West coast rain forest valleys are poor locations for luxury dude ranches.  The resort has already suffered major flood damage, and it’ll suffer more.

Major erosion is constant.  A horse trail along the river will disappear in chunks, exactly like the old logging roads and bridges.  The river’s been working for years to eliminate all signs of destructive human activity in the Bedwell, and it won’t stop.  The valley is sending an obvious message.  I believe we should listen.  Hello, government?  Hello?

Location Map

Some Points About the Trail

The trail begins near the parks camp site (tent platforms) on Bedwell Lake.  From there, it basically follows the left side of the Bedwell River (going downstream) until it crosses over to the right side on the Gayle McGee bridge.  It then stays on the right side of the river all the way to the head of Bedwell Inlet.

The Bedwell Valley is rough and wild.  Snow often stays late into the summer at higher elevations and the trail crosses one semi-permanent snow slide.  The Bedwell River and the creeks feeding into it can rise very quickly during any large rainfall, so beware.  Thankfully, they usually fall equally quickly once rain stops.

In general, the last few weeks in August and the first week or so in September are usually the best times to plan a trip down the Bedwell, because water levels are at their lowest.  In times of high water, almost any creek may rise enough to stop travel.  In low water, all creeks (except possibly K2 Creek) should be safe to wade.  Sam Craig Creek generally appears to carry less water, and should be easy to wade almost any time from late July into early September.  K2 Creek, You Creek, and Ashwood Creek are currently spanned by logs or log jams, which might change or vanish during any winter.

The trail basically goes where the country allows it to go.  Sometimes rock bluffs or other obstructions funnel travellers ( both two legged and four) into one route.  Often the trail follows the elk, which have been travelling up and down this valley for centuries.  There are muddy sections, rocky sections, steep sections, and marshy sections.  The valley was logged up to about where the snow slide crosses the trail, so the trail intermittently follows old logging roads (where they exist) from this point down.

At present, the trail and route are marked with ribbons, all the way from Bedwell Lake to where the trail joins the old logging road just downstream from the “Living Bridge.”  The trail has been brushed out and almost all windfalls have been removed, except where the government wouldn’t give permission to do this between Ashwood Creek and Sam Craig Creek.

Bedwell Climate and Topography

The Bedwell Valley is similar to most valleys in Strathcona Park in that it’s narrow and steep, particularly in the upper sections.  The Bedwell River flows from Bedwell Lake (at the height of land) entirely through mountains which face the Pacific Ocean.  These two factors (narrow and steep, facing the Pacific) guarantee major precipitation and rapid runoff.

With sufficient rain, the Bedwell River can become a fearsome torrent in a very short time.  Rises of eight feet and more (particularly lower down on the river) aren’t uncommon.

Why the Troute Stays Most of the Way on the Left Side (Going Down) of the River

1) The troute avoids all potentially dangerous Bedwell River crossings.  It crosses the river only once, closer to the ocean on the existing Gayle McGee bridge.  Also, the more dangerous side creeks are on the other side of the river.  The creeks on the left side are much easier to cross.

2) The troute is often safely above the reach of the river which is so efficiently destroying the old logging road which follows the flats on the right side.

3) By going higher, the troute often avoids areas frequented by elk and other animals, lessening human disturbance.

4) By staying higher, the troute passes through several areas of old growth timber which escaped logging.  We can truly appreciate what the valley was like before it was logged.  Going higher also gives us some wonderful views of the valley and mountains, different vegetation, and one encouraging glimpse of our destination, the ocean.

The Trail Guide

The troute actually begins near the BC Parks campsite and tent platforms on Bedwell Lake, reached via the Bedwell Lake trail.

The Bedwell Lake Trailhead is reached by turning left off the pavement (which goes to the mine on Myra Creek) onto a gravel side road shortly after crossing Thelwood Creek near the head of Buttle Lake.  This is the Jim Mitchell Lake road, which is where the historic Strathcona Blockade began in January, 1988.  The road is a very steep industrial road, built by the mine to reach their hydro dam on Jim Mitchell Lake.  The road may be in poor condition, requiring at least front wheel drive, possibly more.

The times given in the guide are from recent trips done by reasonably fit people of varying ages and abilities, with reasonably heavy (40-55 pound) packs,  travelling from alpine to ocean, not vice versa.  Obviously, the times may not match your times.  If you’re faster, no problem.  If you’re slower, especially a lot slower, you might think about allowing yourself more time, or perhaps choosing another trip.

The first leg, from the Bedwell Lake Trailhead to Bedwell Lake, should give some idea of how fast or slow you are compared to the times given.  I think it’s important from many perspectives, including safety, to find and maintain a pace which is comfortable for you, not someone else.  A few strong people will run all the way to the beach in one day.  Most won’t.  I think a good, reasonably moderate time from Bedwell Lake to saltwater might be about four days.

An Attempt to Explain “Troute”

From now on, in the actual guide, I’ll often use the word “troute” to refer to what I’ve so far called the Bedwell Centennial Trail.  To me, a troute is  somewhere between a route and a trail.  Sometimes it’s more of a trail, sometimes it’s more of a route, and sometimes it’s something in between.  I also call troutes “gentle trails,” because a good troute moves through the country as gently as possible.  I think the Bedwell Centennial Trail qualifies as a gentle trail, or troute, especially since we originally created it in hopes of protecting the park from the threat of a hugely brutal commercial horse trail.

My Thoughts on “Gentle Trails” or “Troutes”

In general, I don’t think wide trails suit many areas in Strathcona very well.  A narrow trail can easily (and gently) go many places a wide trail can’t.  In a park like Strathcona, if we decide our trails must be wide, we drastically limit  where the trail can go.  A narrow trail can wiggle through intricate obstacles where a wide trail can’t.  This means that wide trails often must force their way through, while narrow trails are usually able to work with the country, not against it, and to make use of natural features rather than blast them out of the way.

Wide trails, especially on steep side hills, often demand total destruction of important root systems which work to hold everything in place.  Wide trails also often remove the “duff,” or accumulated needles and other small forest debris which holds up amazingly well under human feet.  What I call “gentle” trails, or “troutes,” don’t usually disturb root systems or duff at all.  This helps immeasurably to diminish or eliminate the erosion problems which turn many of the wider trails in Strathcona (Forbidden Plateau, Bedwell Lake Trail) into little more than mud holes and rocky creek beds.

Gental trails (troutes) are easy to build and easy to maintain by volunteers at little or no cost.  In the past, they’ve usually been planned, sited, and built by people who understand the park, and what suits the park’s special conditions.

These “gentle” trails create little disturbance, and they only last as long as they receive regular use.  If people don’t use them, they fade away into the landscape, unlike the huge, deep scars of wide trails (very obvious on the Forbidden Plateau) which continually grow larger and get worse.

Wider trails take a lot of time and effort to build, and they cost a lot of money.  If they’re poorly sited (which is often the case, since their size makes this almost inevitable) they’re often almost impossible to change.  Not so with a troute.  If, after a few years, a better location is found for a shorter or longer section of a troute, it can be relocated quickly and easily, and the abandoned section will simply disappear.

Troutes, or gentle trails are gentle on the land.  Because gentle trails bend to the land, they aren’t sidewalks.  They aren’t intended to be.  Sidewalks work better in cities.  Gentle trails are intended to be easy on the park and to provide us with a practical way to move unobtrusively and respectfully through sometimes difficult country.

Is there a better way for us to experience our park?

The Start

Index Map

Bedwell Trailhead to Baby Bedwell Lake – about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Pretty much all uphill.

Map 1: Trailhead to Bedwell Lake

Baby Bedwell to Bedwell Lake tent platforms – about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Some uphill, some down, packed snow often covering sections of trail in late July/early August.  Horrible steel stairways, often badly mutilated by winter snow.

Bedwell Lake tent platforms to K2 Creek crossing – about 1 hour.  Creek crossing somewhat intimidating for many, but not for Tat.  Two yellow cedar logs laid across the creek at the very brink of a high waterfall.  Logs apparently still sound, but no guarantee.  This is no place for heroics.  Most cross by straddling the logs or crawling.  Braver people may help more timid people with their packs.  The distance across is short, and improvements here (or a permanent solution, like a bridge) would be relatively simple, and it may come to pass.  Meanwhile, be careful.  So far, hundreds have survived.

K2 Creek Crossing

K2 Creek to Elk Flat – about 30 minutes.  I’m not sure if this time is correct, but it’s what I’ve got written down.  The troute veers away from the river and then returns, at what I call the Elk Flat.  Camping is possible here beside the river, but snow often lies later on this flat than in areas where the ground is steeper.

Elk Flat to Appreciation Falls – about 1 hour.  There are several points of interest along this part of the troute.  Toward the lower end of the Elk Flat is what I call “Vitality Bridge,” where a creek crossing has been created by the living roots of trees.  Soon after crossing Vitality Bridge, the troute trends steeply downward, as does the river, which can be heard roaring off to the right.

Watch for a side trail which leads to “Cliff Hanger Falls.”  No sign at the trail turn off, but one at the falls.  Further down, “Appreciation Falls,” (short side trail, no sign as yet) was named in appreciation of all the volunteers who worked on the Bedwell Centennial Troute as part of the effort to stop the government from opening the Bedwell Valley to commercial exploitation.  Also simple, honest  appreciation for a beautiful park, a beautiful valley, and a beautiful wild river.

Appreciation Falls to Upstream Edge of Snow slide – about 30 minutes.  This snow slide is replenished every winter by avalanches coming down the slopes and gullies of Big Interior Mountain.  It currently seems to stay all year, and the slide covers the Bedwell River in this area until well into summer.

Map 2: Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek

The snow is compacted and moderately steep, but can normally be crossed safely, using normal care.  Warmer weather generally makes for softer snow and better footing, whereas colder weather could mean frozen snow.  Another good reason to plan this trip for the warmest, driest part of the year, centred usually approximately around the last two weeks of August and the first week or so of a warm, dry September.

The snow slide

Bedwell River disappearing under the slide

From Upstream Edge of Snow slide to Start of Old Logging Road – about 1 hour.  At the point where the troute comes out of the timber at the upstream edge of the snow slide, the view opens up.   Immediately ahead is the snow slide, with the Bedwell River (either covered or uncovered, depending on how much snow has melted) low down on the right.  On the far side of the snow slide is a strip of maples (which stands out in this region of predominately coniferous trees) which I call the Elk Pasture since it’s an area favoured by the elk.

Between the snow slide and the maples is a strip of brush, mainly salmon berries.  Our goal is to reach the Elk Pasture (nice walking) while avoiding thrashing through the thick salmon berries.  To do this, we follow the elk, as we’ve been doing pretty much all the way from Bedwell Lake.

A tongue of relatively clear ground interspersed with boulders extends upward on the far edge of the snow field.  The troute crosses the snow field to the upper part of this rocky, bouldery tongue, (delicious wild strawberries in season) and then heads downhill to where the elk trail leaves the tongue and finds its way through the salmon berries to the maples.

The elk trail stays to rockier areas across the salmon berries, and it’s a good trail, quite well defined.  There should also be ribbons, and perhaps a few cairns.  If you’re carrying a roll of marking tape this would be a good place to use some of it, to help others keep to the straight and narrow.  It’ll help the park, too.  Ribbons and cairns disappear over time, and when people get confused they start making extra trails, which confuses more people, who make more trails leading nowhere…

Once in the maples, the troute goes down, running roughly parallel (but not too close) to a creek which the troute eventually crosses.  This creek is normally pretty tame (one step across) but a good rain can quickly turn it into a snarling monster.  After crossing the creek, it’s a short distance downhill to the beginning of the old logging road.

From the Start of the Old Logging Road to You Creek – 50 minutes.  This road is straightforward.  Except for a few washed out sections, it’s a simple trudge down the road to You Creek.  You’ll pass some huge old stumps dwarfing the puny second growth stems, another reminder of what an amazing place this valley must have been before they destroyed this part of the park for money.  Oh well, just another few hundred years…

You Creek has good camping.  The creek should be easy to wade across in times of low water.  At present (and probably for years to come) a big log spans the creek just upstream from the old road crossing.  There’s a beautiful waterfall a short distance up the creek.  Someday, there may be a cable car crossing here.

You Creek Crossing

You Creek to Ashwood Creek – about 2 hours.  The Bedwell River has been changing course from one side of the valley to the other for thousands of years.  A short distance downstream from You Creek, the road has vanished into the river, forcing the troute to climb up a muddy elk trail.  It then parallels the river until it strikes an old spur which leads back down to where the old road is still in place.

The road is gone in several places between You Creek and Ashwood Creek.  The troute detours where necessary.  The last section of road before Ashwood Creek is still in pretty good shape.  There’s a fork toward the end of this final section, with the troute heading up the left fork for about ten minutes to the Ashwood Creek crossing and campsite.  The right fork once crossed the river on a  bridge which has long since disappeared.

There’s very good camping at Ashwood Creek.  The crossing is on an old log jam which could wash out any year.  The creek should be easy to wade in any sort of low water.

Ashwood Creek marks the start of the middle section of the Bedwell Centennial Troute, which the government wouldn’t give us permission to brush out.  It’s a short section (about 2 hours and 30 minutes with day packs) between Ashwood Creek and Sam Craig Creek.

The Ashwood crossing is well marked, but this might be another helpful place to hang some fresh flagging tape if you have it.  A side creek comes into the Ashwood at this point, and the troute follows the creek for a short distance, then heads uphill into a notch to avoid bluffs along the river.  This notch is actually a sort of narrow slit which runs up one side of a hill from Ashwood Creek and then down the other side to a small marshy lake.  From the lake, (which I call Sundew Lake) the troute returns to the river.

Ashwood Creek Crossing

Ashwood Creek to Sundew Lake – about 1 hour.  The Ashwood side of the notch has been logged, and the way up is choked in places with felled logs left to rot.  The other side, going down to Sundew Lake, for some reason wasn’t logged, and it’s probably the only sizeable stand of old growth timber remaining in the Bedwell Valley.  The entire valley was once like this.  These old trees have seen plenty, and they deserve all the appreciation and respect we can give them.  Somehow, trees like this feed our spirits.  If wilderness parks have a real purpose, this is it.  For whatever reason, money, stumps, and commercial operations didn’t quite make it here, so these ancient beings still exist to feed something in us we’ll never understand.

Map 3: Ashwood Creek to Sam Craig Creek

Old growth Yellow Cedar

Sundew Lake to Sam Craig Creek – about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  From Sundew Lake, the troute goes a short distance downhill to the river, and follows elk trails (elk troutes?) along the river all the way to Sam Craig Creek.  In this section there are wonderful views of the Bedwell River in it’s many different forms.  There are rapids, quieter sections, and places where the river somehow squeezes through closely packed collections of gigantic boulders.

There are several gravel bar campsites with beautiful alders and grassy areas.  Blaney Creek actually splits into a swampy maze of several creeks, and the troute weaves a torturous way through.  Nearing Sam Craig Creek, the troute leaves the river and moves slightly uphill to avoid a thick brushy patch of second growth.  A short elk trail leads back to the river and from there the troute follows pleasant alder flats to the mouth of Sam Craig Creek.

There are no convenient logs across Sam Craig Creek, but it’s an easy wade in the summer.

From Sam Craig Creek, the troute stays beside the river for a short distance, then goes up and over a short, steep section and back down to a beautiful gravel bar campsite on the river.  Sam Craig Creek to gravel bar – about 30 minutes.

Gravel bar campsite to old logging road near “Living Bridge” – About 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Heading out from the gravel bar, the troute goes through an alder flat, then starts to climb to avoid bluffs ahead on the river.  The climb is steep, because the troute is squeezed  into a gully here by bluffs on the upstream side as well.  I call this “the Deer Gully” because this is a deer route.  It leads up from the river to a sort of rolling plateau with two marshy lakes or ponds, which I call “the Beautiful Ponds.”

Map 4: Sam Craig Creek to Living Bridge

From the Beautiful Ponds, the troute follows elk trails back down to the river.  There is at least one good gravel bar campsite with swiming opportunities on this section, before the troute climbs again to avoid another section of difficult ground beside the river.  It then descends almost to the river (chance to fill water bottles before dry climb to top of bluffs) before making a final longer and steeper climb (with a very small area old growth near the top) to pause on some bluffs with a good view up and down the Bedwell Valley, including (from the right spot) a view of saltwater in Bedwell Inlet.

From there, the troute descends to join the old logging road near a creek about a 15 minute walk downstream from “the Living Bridge.”  The creek may appear dry, but water can usually be found in rocky pools by following the creek a short distance up from the road.

From where the troute joins the old logging road to Gayle McGee Bridge – 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Basically this is just a trudge down the old logging road through salmon berries and occasional wash outs to the Gayle McGee Bridge across the Bedwell River.  Just below the bridge is an excellent camping area beside the river.

Gayle McGee Bridge to salt water – 3 hours.  This is just a trudge down a dusty road to saltwater, a wharf where you’ve hopefully arranged for a water taxi from Tofino to meet you, and the unlikely spectacle of a dude ranch for the wealthy at the mouth of the Bedwell River.

Map 5: Living Bridge to Bedwell Inlet

Bedwell River, Mt Mariner

Gravel bar campsite

For more information, including a GPS map, see this Comox District Mountaineering Club page.

Best wishes and good luck!

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | December 2, 2011

Accounts of 2011 Bedwell Trail Work Experiences

Dear People:

These two accounts are by Ken and Mathew (or Matthius)  about their experiences on the 2011 Bedwell Centennial Trail work party.  If anyone wants to add their own thoughts on the trail, or the Bedwell issue, or Strathcona Park in general, please send them along.  I apologize for my absent computer skills.    Karl.

Mathew’s Account

Late August this year, Vancouver Islanders finally found themselves enjoying a much yearned for bout of good weather after a particularly wet and disappointing July. It was perfect for the celebration organized by the Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP).  August 20th, was a day celebrated by more than 100 participants at a festival held in Strathcona Park. The day included canoeing, kayaking, short and long hikes as well as booths and food presented by members of various Vancouver Island clubs and other organizations. The event also hosted several speeches by long time members and activists who spoke of the history of Strathcona Park and the challenges the friends faced and personal sacrifices made in order to preserve the park.

The Friends of Strathcona Park is a group dedicated to the preservation of the park for the intended use under the original master plan. Members of the FOSP have been instrumental in the long term preservation of the park and the fight to prevent the abuse of the park by government and private industry. As well as legal challenges, one of the key ways that the FOSP insure the preservation of the park is by promoting its use.

The Bedwell Centennial Trail was constructed by the FOSP in 1992. It traverses 34km between Bedwell Lake and Bedwell Bay. The trail is a labour of love by the FOSP for ten years the trail had seen moderate use but was beginning to show its age. There were numerous windfalls and erosion that necessitated the need for maintenance of the light impact trail. Additionally, some sections of the trail needed to be rerouted as engineers have indicated that the Living Bridge that crosses the Bedwell River is no longer safe to traverse as there are several stringers dangling from the bottom. For the past two consecutive years, the FOSP have obtained work permits to do trail maintenance in the Bedwell Valley to reroute some sections and clear others.

In 2010, FOSP brought a small work party in to start trail maintenance on the west end of the trail, from Claoyquot Wilderness Resort in Bedwell Bay to Sam Craig Creek. At this time the trail was rerouted so that the Living Bridge is no longer required to complete the hike. In 2010, the friends cut the trail clear up to the Sam Craig Creek.

In 2011, the friends received another permit allowing them to cut from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek. The work was completed by 30 eager volunteers over three days. Cutting was quick as the trail is well traversed.

As a member of the work party, I had the choice to continue on past You Creek, crossing the Spine of Vancouver Island and leave via Bedwell Bay by water Taxi to Tofino. I jumped at chance to cross Vancouver Island by foot! The highest point of the trail is Baby Bedwell Lake. From this point, the remainder of the trail is primarily downhill, which is often following overgrown logging roads and the Bedwell River. A particular highlight of this trail is walking through a preserved section of the Bedwell Valley filled with old growth cedar and rich flora. For some unknown reason this section was never logged at the time that the Valley was removed from the park.

The Bedwell Centennial Trail is 34 km long from the trail head on the Jim Mitchell Lake Road near the south end of Buttle Lake to the head of Bedwell Inlet. Prior arrangements need to be made with a water taxi to get to Tofino. The trip is best done in July through September when stream levels are low. Allow 3 to 4 days one way, and travel only when good weather is predicted. Heavy rains can quickly make dry streams impassable, but they soon recover in a day or two. Though the trail is of moderate difficulty there are a few sections that provide short challenges, like logs crossing rushing water.

Between the work completed in 2010 and 2011, there remains only one short section of the trail uncut, about 4 km. Even this section is easily traversable and is well marked with ribbons hanging every ten to fifteen feet. Even with this short section the trail is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable hikes I have done on Vancouver Island. It takes the hiker from the alpine to the ocean and crosses through sections of the park that have not had regular visitors in over 60 years.

FOSP continues to advocate for light trail use and the continued exclusion of horses in the Park. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, a private company that caters to affluent adventure seekers, is currently seeking permits that will allow them to bring their clients into the park by horse. This remains a big concern for FOSP as the original master plan does not allow for horses to be used within this area of the park. It is the belief of FOSP that the completion of the Bedwell Centenial Trail will show that there is already an established trail and this will prevent future applications by CWR from gaining a foothold. It is also the belief of the friends that the interests of private companies remains  the primary reason why the FOSP cannot obtain a permit to cut the final 4 Km of trail between You Creek and Sam Craig Creek.

For more information about the FOSP and a full route description of the Bedwell Centennial Trail visit the groups website;

Sincerely and Truly, Matthius Lettington

A First Hand Account of Last Summer’s Trail Building

by Ken Van de burgt

It was a dark and stormy night. I had

commitments till Sunday afternoon and only

started up the Bedwell Lakes trail at about

7PM with the intention of meeting up with

the FOSP work party. It started raining as I

made my way up the trail. I was glad to be

making camp, soaking wet, in the dark,

with blowing wind and rain, on the tent pad

at Baby Bedwell Lake 3 hours later. The

tent pads tend to get water flowing along

the boards under the tent and it is a chore

to get the tent tied down with limited string

but camping on the flooded ground would

have been worse.

My first experience with the Bedwell

Valley was in the summer of 2004. I

paddled my kayak from Tofino with all my

hiking gear stuffed in the cockpit and

strapped to the deck. My first big surprise

was at the head of Bedwell Sound where my

brand new edition of Hiking Trails III failed

entirely to mention about the resort that had

been built there. Leaving my kayak on the

beach, I hiked on the old logging road as far

as the ford on the Bedwell River just below

Ashwood Creek. I wasn’t able to find the

route from there and I turned back. The hike

had been a disappointment because it was in

a dark dreary second growth scrub forest

and an exercise in getting my face slapped

by the brush that pretty much filled in the

entire trail. Obviously, no trail maintenance

had been done in years.

My second experience was in 2010 when I

Trail Builders on the dock at CWR

Those who traversed the entire trail from

alpinbe to ocean.

participated with the Friends in building a new

trail from near the only remaining logging bridge

to Sam Craig creek. It was a much better

experience because the new trail got above the

gloomy recovering industrial forest on the valley

floor and opened up to views of the mountains.

The logging and mining have caused a lot of

damage, but there are still natural treasures to be

found here and the new trees are beginning to

mask the worst of the scars left by industrial

activity. I met a lot of like-minded people who are

not happy about the direction BC Parks is taking

in mismanaging our Park and found a positive

expression of that frustration in the work

building a new trail.

I packed up quite late on Monday afternoon waiting for

the weather to settle and had just about enough time to

get to the Bedwell Lake campsite and set up in the light.

Every creek was swollen with rain and melting snow

from the huge late summer snow pack. Wet foot

crossings were needed to ford the creeks that flow into

Bedwell Lake. You could see water lapping at the

remains of foundations of BC Parks poorly engineered

bridges that had been washed away years ago.

Most of the work party had gone up Saturday and had

worked all day Sunday. I encountered several people,

who had been in the work party, on their way out. The

stories were conflicting as to how far the work had been

completed. The common theme was that people had

gotten soaked in the wet weather. The information

suggested that trail had been reopened to the landslide

and that the party of 11 people below the landslide were

nearly finished their work to reopen the trail to

Ashwood Creek.

On Tuesday morning in doubtful looking weather I

decided to hike at least as far as You Creek. I had never

been on that section of trail and I wanted the


The crossing at K2 Creek was a bit intimidating; the

bridge consists of two logs (placed in mid 1990’s) with

no handrail and the water was roaring underneath. I

noted the simple design seems to work a lot better than

bridges built by BC Parks that tend to be poorly placed

and incapable of managing the snow load. From there it

was easy and pleasant walking down the newly brushed

out trail.

I met two of the lower valley work party making their

way out and so there were nine when I caught up with

the work party at You Creek. As it turned out work was

not as close to completion as I had been led to believe.

Clearing trail is heavy work. We used hand tools

consisting of saws and garden clippers. Some of the

deadfall was more than a foot in diameter. The saw

tended to bind as weight shifted around, particularly

when there were several trees piled on each other. Due

to my late arrival I got only a part of the experience,

working just Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday

morning and I found it exhausting. The rest of the crew

had been at work since Saturday.

On Wednesday afternoon we reached Ashwood Creek,

the limit of the volunteer agreement worked out by

FOSP with BC Parks. We had lunch, hoisted our packs

and route bashed along the true left bank of the Bedwell

River to a beautiful camp on a gravel bar near Sam

Craig Creek. The route was flagged during

reconnaissance work done by FOSP this summer. There

is a huge logjam here consisting of stumps and wood

debris. The logjam is responsible for the river’s course

changing here.

Thursday we hiked along the trail that was cleared last

year from Sam Craig Creek to the Gail McGee Bridge.

My pack was heavy and I was quite happy to leave the

route bashing and get onto the previously cleared route.

Friday we followed the road through Crown Forest and

CWR land to the tidewater at Bedwell Sound. The

water taxi showed up as arranged to bring us to Tofino.

A chartered bus brought us back to Courtenay.

I hope BC Parks will allow volunteers to complete

clearing the route from Ashwood Creek to Sam Craig

Creek. The rain event that we encountered would have

made it impossible to ford the Bedwell River at

Ashwood Creek; the route along the true left bank

eliminates that ford and the crossing of the condemned

logging bridge. Walking the new route is a much more

pleasant experience than walking that old logging road

could ever be. And of course, we don’t need

commercial operators building trails, bridges, and other

unwanted intrusive infrastructure in our parks.


Additional comments on the trail project

by Karl Stevenson

From the FOSP standpoint, the Bedwell issue is (like

all park issues) very complicated, but in one way it’s

also very simple: The government wants to open

Strathcona Park up to high-impact commercial

operations and we don’t. We’ve been working very

hard to prevent the government and a commercial resort

from having their way in the Bedwell Valley for

approximately seven years.

We don’t want a high-impact commercial trail in the

Bedwell Valley, or in any other area of Strathcona

Park. This is why we’ve expended so much time,

money, and energy in building a low-impact non-

commercial trail in the Bedwell. This

year we could easily have completed the remaining

short section of the Bedwell Centennial Trail (we had

the volunteers and we were ready) but the government

refused to give us permission.

The Battle for the Bedwell is far from over. We are

the process of preparing a Bedwell

Centennial Trail guide, along with

photographs, a list of volunteers, and other

interesting information for the FOSP web-

site. I’m more grateful than I can ever

possibly say to all the volunteers who have

given their time and energy in support of

our wonderful park.   Thanks once again.  Karl.

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | August 29, 2011

Legal Challenge, Bedwell Centennial Trail, Wilderness Festival



Dear Editor


The Friends of Strathcona Park have hired a Vancouver law firm to prepare a legal challenge against  government efforts to give commercial rights in Strathcona Park to a private resort on the edge of the park.  The resort operates a dude ranch for the wealthy on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  The government has approved the permit, but has yet to sign it.


The process of granting a park use permit to the resort  was begun by the Campbell government against the guidelines of the Strathcona Park Master Plan, against the recommendations of the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee, and against the stated wishes of an overwhelming majority (around 90%) of citizens who attended public consultation meetings.


Our lawyers believe there are serious legal flaws in the government process which has put Strathcona under threat of damage by a high impact commercial operation.  Legal proceedings will begin against the government if and when they sign the permit allowing the resort into the park.


On other fronts, the Friends of Strathcona have been working to build a trail in the area under threat, (the Bedwell Valley) hoping that a low impact trail will stave off the apparent wish of government to grant  privileges in the park to a private operation which has dreams of building a high impact commercial trail for wealthy clients in the Bedwell Valley.


For the last three years, the Friends of Strathcona have been working with volunteers to build the Bedwell Centennial Trail, a beautiful low impact trail which won’t cost the public a penny.  The route follows the Bedwell River from source to mouth, and will allow hikers to walk from the east side of Vancouver Island to the west coast near Tofino.  The Friends intended to complete the trail for Strathcona’s 100th birthday this year, but the government wouldn’t give permission to brush out one last very short section in the middle, and won’t allow us to say the trail has been completed.


We had the volunteers, the tools, and we could have easily completed the trail, but we weren’t permitted to close the final gap.  Why?  For some reason, the government doesn’t want our low impact, no cost volunteer trail completed.  Meanwhile they’re poised to sign a park use permit allowing a damaging commercial operation to use the Bedwell Valley, almost into the centre of Strathcona Park, for its own private purposes.


The Campbell government bulldozed public wishes in many ways and they were very good at it, but the HST debacle was the straw which finally broke the camel’s back.  Exit Gordon Campbell.  Unfortunately, we’re left with many of his legacies, one of them being the damage which is about to occur in Strathcona Park if the Cristy Clark government signs the park use permit.


Parks are not commercial enterprizes, and their purpose isn’t to serve the economic wishes of private interests.  Although it’s true that Strathcona has suffered terribly from commercial damage in the last 100 years, we don’t need to allow the process to go on for the next 100.


Thanks very much to the volunteers who worked very hard this year, and for the preceding two years, on the Bedwell Centennial Trail with hopes of stopping the government from allowing commercial damage in the Bedwell Valley.   For whatever reasons, the government didn’t allow us to brush out the last little bit of trail this year, but the trail is now almost complete, and it’s well marked and easy to follow for its entire length, all the way from Bedwell Lake to Bedwell Inlet.


Thanks very much also to all those who contributed to the very successful Strathcona Wilderness Festival, and to all those who attended and showed their support for Strathcona, BC’s oldest provincial park.


Karl Stevenson

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | July 31, 2011

Bedwell Centennial Trail and Strathcona Wilderness Festival Update

Dear Editor

From August 20-25 the Friends of Strathcona Park are organizing two events which are very important in our overall strategy to create meaningful protection for Strathcona Park.  One event, the Strathcona Wilderness Festival, will only last a day, but we’d like everyone who cares about the park to come and be counted.  Carol Hunter of Comox, and Mick Taylor of Gold River, who were both  Bedwell Trail volunteers last year and are now on the FOSP executive, have done a massive amount of organizing to make the event possible.  For details on the Festival (and the volunteer Bedwell  Centennial Trail project for this year) go to the FOSP web-site:

From my perspective, the reasons for the Festival are totally  “political,”  (governments see people as votes, and if sufficient numbers of people are willing to donate a day of their lives to support their park, the government will definitely take notice, especially now, with a provincial election coming up very soon) and I have trouble seeing it any other way.  My message is simple:  To protect Strathcona Park for yourself and future generations, please come, and please bring your family and friends.

But that’s my perspective, and not necessarily how others see it.  For others, the Strathcona Wilderness Festival will decidedly not be a political event.  It has been created as a day of fun, learning, and enjoyable free activities, all facilitated by qualified knowledgeable people who have given their time because they think Strathcona Park is worth it.  Please match their contribution.  Come and enjoy a wonderful day in a beautiful park.

The second event, the Bedwell Centennial Trail, (also “political”  for me, but not necessarily for others) will be happening from August 20-25, and will involve volunteer trail work from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek in the Bedwell Valley in Strathcona Park.  We have official permission to do this work, and we’re officially allowed up to 45 volunteers.  When completed, the trail will allow hikers to travel across the spine of Vancouver Island to Bedwell Inlet on the west coast.

Last year, volunteers created a major section of trail leading from the head of Bedwell Inlet toward Bedwell Lake.  This year, we’ll do another major section from Bedwell Lake toward our work of last year, leaving (for unclear official reasons) a very short uncompleted section in the middle.  To date, we have about 20 volunteers.  We want more.

The work isn’t physically hard or technically demanding,  (it mainly involves brush clipping) and it’s an unbelievable amount of fun to work in a non-pressured way with others on a worthwhile project.  Volunteers work at whatever level is comfortable for them.  It’s an excellent way to do something for the park, to learn about it first hand, and also to spend time with people who have hiked in the park for most of their lives, care for it deeply, and have knowledge to share for those interested.   Volunteers must have a certain level of physical fitness and must be able to carry their own food, shelter, etc. to the height of land (at Bedwell Lake) and beyond.  For more information, including phone numbers, etc., go to the FOSP website shown above.

Thanks very much, and we hope to see you for either or both event(s).

Karl Stevenson



Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | July 5, 2011

Strathcona Centennial Trail and Centennial Celebration Update

Current Bedwell Trail Situation

Kel Kelly and Karl Stevenson recently had a very co-operative meeting with Ron Quilter and Andy Smith from parks.  Kel is currently drawing up an agreement for trail work on the Bedwell, from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek, and will present the agreement to parks for approval when he’s done.  To meet WBC guidelines there will be 3 separate work parties, (consisting of up to 15 people each) working on the trail, so we would like to have a total of 40-45 trail workers from August 19-24.  We have decided to officially call the trail the “Oinimitis Centennial Trail” after the original people who lived in what is now called the Bedwell Valley.

We are also planning a Strathcona Park Centennial Celebration in conjunction with the trail work party but separate from it.  The centennial celebrations will mainly centre around August 20th, which is a Saturday.  We’ll offer hiking, picnicking, and learning opportunities in unspoiled areas in Strathcona Park for families and people of all ages and abilities.  This will be a chance for people to donate one day of their lives to show their support for a non-commercial Strathcona Park in an enjoyable, educational, totally legal, non-confrontational, and positive way.  In other words, we want LOTS of people, so the government receives an unmistakable message that people are willing to come out to support their park.

We’ll be offering day hikes, overnight hikes, and hikes of one hour or less.  All hikes will have knowledgeable leaders, so there’ll be opportunities to learn about Strathcona history, flora and fauna, geology, etcetera.   For work party members, as well as others who are interested and capable, we’ll also offer a trip across the spine of Vancouver Island to the west coast when trail work is completed around August 24th.

Obviously this will take a large amount of organizing, both for the Oinimitis Centennial Trail and for the Strathcona Park Centennial Celebration, so we’re reaching out for help, which means we need people, lots of people, of all talents, capabilities, and strengths.

To do a good job on building the trail, we’re hoping for at least 40 people who are capable of carrying their own food and shelter (we may be able to provide some help in this) for approximately 5 days.  Believe it or not, the trail crews will probably have the most fun and learn the most of any of the people who turn out in August to show their support for the park.  No trail work experience is necessary, and everyone gets to work at whatever speed, task, or energy level suits them.  We’re asking people to commit early and let us know, so we can plan.   Much more detail will be provided (and periodically added to) on the FOSP website and our Facebook page.

The Strathcona Centennial Celebration is intended primarily to give people a chance to learn about their park from inside, in whatever way suits them best.  FOSP will organize car pooling from specified sites and times in Courtenay and Campbell River, and buses if necessary.  We’ll be doing our best to attract people from all over Vancouver Island as well as the Mainland, the more the better, so we’re asking you to plan to attend, at least for a day, and to tell your friends, groups, whatever.  The name of this game is NUMBERS, so let us know as early as possible that you’re coming so that we can plan.

We’ll need people with varying degrees of knowledge about Strathcona Park to act as guides and facilitators for groups of many levels of abilities and interests.  If people volunteering for this know something about park history, natural history, geology, geography, etc., so much the better.  We’ll also need people to help with organizing transportation and many other logistical necessities, both before the event and during, so if you’re interested, let us know pronto, because this entire centennial event will be organized, carried out, and over and done with in approximately a month.

We’re asking for help and public participation, and we’re asking for it quickly.  The upside is that we’ll need help and participation for only a short time. In most cases it’ll only be for a day or so, centred around August 20th.  People interested in helping with organizational and other details (advertising, transportation, event planning, providing first aid possibilities, etc.) may be required to spend more time, but it’ll still be for a relatively short period, depending on the time constraints of the volunteer and the nature of the task.  So again, if you’re interested in helping with organizing, planning, or guiding or facilitating, let us know as soon as possible so that we can begin to include you.

That’s it for now, more will come soon as plans develop, but basically we need help and we need numbers, both to organize and to participate in the FOSP Strathcona Centennial  Celebrations.  We intend to provide at least one day of fun and learning about Strathcona Park from inside for everyone who’s interested.  For the majority of people, we’ll only be asking for one day to show up, have fun, and support their park for the benefit of their children, grandchildren, and society in general.  We believe that if the commercial world can get 100,000 people to turn out for a drunken riot in Vancouver, people with less commercially based interests might be willing to spend one small day showing support for something as worthwhile to us all as Strathcona Park, the first provincial park in BC.

Please come, bring your friends, and let us know you’re coming.  We need you, and if there’s ever a time to show support, this is it.  This is one simple way we can encourage good, non-commercial changes in our park systems.  Thank you all,  Karl.

Oinimitis Centennial Trail work party: August 19-24.

Strathcona Park Centennial Celebration: centred mainly on Saturday, August 20.

For more info on a continuing basis:  and our Facebook page.

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | June 13, 2011

My Perspective

My Perspective

In this blog, I’m going to try to explain at least a bit of my perspective about the current battle which is being fought out in Strathcona Park.  I’m fully aware that it’s only my perspective, and it’s almost certainly wrong in the minds of the current crop of bureaucrats and politicians who are presently making the decisions about the park I love.

To start with, I think the machinery, customs, educational systems, etc., of our current society are much too focussed on money.  I won’t enlarge on this, because it’s much to big a topic to go into here, but I believe it’s time to divert the direction of our society away from the pursuit of money and toward some of the things that are much more worthwhile to us as human beings.

In some way, Strathcona Park must strongly symbolize what I’ve found to be really worthwhile in my life.  When money enters the picture, these worthwhile things always seem to evaporate.  There are many examples of this occurring in Strathcona Park but there’s no room for that here.

Changing the direction of our entire society is much too big a job for me to even contemplate, but the park is a part of our society, and for me it’s a place to start, partly perhaps because I  think I know the park pretty well and it seems small enough for me to affect in a concrete way.  I also love it, and I feel all sorts of pain when bureaucrats and politicians who know nothing about the park start to carve it up for their own ideological, political, and monetary reasons.

For me, an essential part of the value of Strathcona Park is that we created it to be a place where the focus was on preserving the natural world, rather than destroying it to make money.  Since I’ve spent most of my life watching the park being eroded bit by bit in this insidious process, a lot of my time in the park hasn’t been particularly enjoyable for me.

I happen to believe that we can afford to preserve at least one small corner of our society from our habitual scrabble for money.  I also think the park is a manageable and very logical place for us to start.  I believe as well that it won’t be easy, but it’ll be very worthwhile in the end for us as human beings, and also for our society, now and into the future.

In the end, it comes down to emotions, to feelings.  For me, a little money is nice to have, but it’s not my reason for living.  The government, as usual, seems to be focussed on money, but  money will never give me what the park has given me, in fact, in my experience, it always destroys it.

That’s my perspective, and that’s why I’m fighting.  The government can say what it wants.  I want a park, not a commercial enterprise.

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | June 6, 2011

Letter to Ed #2

Dear Editor

I’m a director of Friends of Strathcona Park, but these thoughts are entirely my own.

This summer, unless things change, we’ll be working to complete a very low impact trail through the Bedwell Valley, and we hope that a large number of volunteers will join us.  For myself, I’ve never wanted a trail through the Bedwell, and I still don’t , but I’ll be working as hard as anyone to create one.  The reason I’ve never wanted a trail is because the Bedwell was totally trashed by logging in the 1960’s, when the government sold the timber in the valley to private concerns, and I believe it deserves a chance to heal itself without further interference from us humans.

That’s my personal bias, but I’ll be working on the trail nontheless.  I’ll be working because I hope it’ill help create the type of park I (and many others) want, rather than what the government appears to want. The government is going through the final stages of allowing a private resort to build a high impact commercial horse trail in the Bedwell for the benefit of the resort and its clients.

I believe the government has violated two extremely important principles in the process of forcing this operation into a public park.  These two principles are: Meaningful Public Input, and Minimal Human Impact.  These principles are still firmly embedded in the Strathcona Park Master Plan despite recent government changes to the plan (against 85 – 90% of public opinion) to allow the resort and its high impact operations into the park.

The commercial trail proposed by the resort will affect the valley hugely, and it will seriously erode important values of the park for the majority of park users.  One very important question is :  Why are the wishes of a single commercial operation more important to government than the stated wishes of thousands of  “ordinary”  park users?

The effect of what we are calling the Oinimitis Centennial Trail on the Bedwell Valley will be absolutely minimal, and it will be extremely sensitive to the nature of the valley and the principles of the Strathcona Park Master Plan.  As I said, I believe the valley deserves a chance to be left alone, but if it comes to a choice between a high impact trail to serve commercial interests as opposed to a minimal impact trail to serve the interests of the park, the choice for me is obvious.

I believe the government is gambling that people won’t come out to support their park.  They may be right.  If you’d like a chance to prove them wrong, join us this coming August 19 – 24.  It’ll be a combination work party and Strathcona Park Centennial celebration and it’ll provide an opportunity for people to help Strathcona Park in a meaningful way.  It will also provide governments with concrete proof that the public neither needs nor wants high impact commercial trails in wilderness parks, and that low impact, non-commercial trails serve the public and suit the park much better.

This is an extremely important and complicated issue.  It has very little, if anything, to do with horses. For more info, go to

Karl Stevenson

3825 Laurel Drive


V0R 2V0

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | May 28, 2011

Letter to Ed

Dear Editor

My dad first took me into Strathcona Park in 1955, when I was 7 years old.  Since that time I’ve seen a lot of horrible things take place in the park, and over the years it’s made me somewhat cynical about governments and parks.  I started out believing that parks were set aside from a lot of human activities like logging, mining, damming lakes, etc., and that parks were protected from such activities by our government and our legal system.

Of course this wasn’t true, and for most of my life I’ve watched Strathcona Park being logged, mined, dammed, etc., so that someone could make money by destroying something I loved.   I realize now that this is pretty much a normal situation for us humans, and it doesn’t just happen in parks, it’s going on all over the world.

What’s happening in the larger world bothers me, so I try not to think about it too much.  I even try not to think too much about what’s happening in the Comox Valley where I’ve spent my life.  Entire runs of salmon which used to spawn in the rivers when I was a kid have almost completely disappeared.  Many things we took for granted when I was growing up are disappearing more and more quickly these days as people step up the pace to get more and more money to buy more and more stuff.

This has always seemed senseless and disturbing to me, that we work so hard to destroy the only home we have, and I’ve always valued the wilder and less disturbed areas of Strathcona Park, because the natural world actually seemed to make sense.  Over the years I’ve also become angry and upset in my trips into the park as I watched various government friends destroy chunks of Strathcona for their own financial benefit.

In 1988, I took part in the Strathcona Blockade.  The government of that day had created an industrial corridor through the centre of the park and a drill rig was doing exploratory drilling.  We blockaded, and the government finally backed down after 64 people were arrested in a peaceful protest which carried on for two months.  We worked incredibly hard and it was very scary for us all, but out of it came much that was worthwhile, including, for the first time in history, a master plan for the park.

The creation of the Strathcona Park Master Plan came only after huge effort from many people over a period of several years, but when it was finally completed the park had a good set of meaningful guidelines and principles.  The master plan was such a good and well thought out document that it kept peace in the park for 18 years.  The peace came to an end recently, when the Campbell government decided to change the master plan to fit plans of their own.  The changes to the master plan allowed the government to grant a permit to a private concern to run a high impact commercial operation in the Bedwell Valley in Strathcona Park.

The master plan was changed despite close to 90% opposition from a concerned public.  The changes were unanimously opposed by the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee, which was a government appointed body.  Ironically, even as park administrators were saying the master plan didn’t allow the high impact activity, other people in government were claiming that it did.  Meanwhile, the government was busy changing the plan even as they were earnestly claiming the changes they were making were unnecessary.

Of course, this is nothing new for Strathcona.  There are numerous such events in park history.   In the end, I believe it always comes down to differences in perceptions about the purpose of our parks, especially wilderness parks like Strathcona.  Most government decision makers know virtually nothing about parks because they live in a money world.  Historically, governments and their friends have always gone for the money, which is perhaps understandable, because money is what they know best.  When confronted with something they don’t understand, they naturally try to turn it into money.

For people like me, (and there are thousands like me) the park has values much greater than money, and much greater than all the shiny trinkets that money can buy.  Unfortunately, like so many of the most worthwhile things in our lives, these values don’t translate well into words.  The only way to learn these values is through direct experience.  They’re also very fragile, and money-driven human activities destroy them very quickly.

This letter started out as an attempt to provide a short, clear explanation for the (peaceful) battle which looks to be shaping up in the Bedwell Valley this summer, but it’s an extremely complicated issue, and I’m not sure how successful I’ve been.  It might come as a surprise to some that the controversy doesn’t really have much (if anything) to do with horses.  All possiblities for controversy could have easily been avoided if the Campbell government had simply heeded the master plan.

If you want to work positively and concretely toward a better park for your children and grandchildren, and/or you’re unhappy with the way the Campbell government overrode the wishes of the public to allow a private commercial concern to violate the principles in the Strathcona Park Master Plan, join me and others in completing the Oinimitis Centennial Trail in the Bedwell Valley this August 19 -24.

For more information, call Karl Stevenson 250 897-6499, or e-mail me at

Karl Stevenson

3825 Laurel Drive


V0R 2V0

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | April 27, 2011

Volunteers Wanted For Bedwell Centennial Trail in August

Volunteers Wanted for Bedwell Centennial Trail in August

I and others have decided to complete the Bedwell River “Source to Mouth” Trail as our Strathcona Park Centennial Project.  The first phase of this project was finished 2 years ago when volunteers repaired the Gayle McGee bridge over the Bedwell River.  The second phase was completed last year when 20 volunteers built the trail along the river as far as Sam Craig Creek.  This year, with a bit of luck and enough volunteers, we intend to finish the remaining section, from Sam Craig Creek to Bedwell Lake.

We believe that if we can gather 40 volunteers who are willing to donate 5 consecutive days of their time in the last 2 weeks (exact dates to be decided) of August, we’ll complete the project and have a lot  of fun in the process.  The more volunteers the better, so we’re asking people to consult their calendars and plan to take part.

The project will probably involve  2 crews, one going in from the mouth of the Bedwell River on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the other working from the east coast, via Bedwell Lake.  The trail will be completed where everyone comes together in the middle.  All ages are welcome, with the proviso that a certain level of physical fitness is necessary, because at this stage it takes at least one day to hike to where work starts at either end.

Some mention must be made of the fact that, although we believe that building the centennial trail is a worthwhile project in its own right, it’s also intended as a political gesture, which will be nothing new in the history of Strathcona Park.  It must also be said that the trail will be a very low-impact trail, and will be completely in keeping with the philosophical goals for the park as outlined in the Strathcona Park Master Plan.

As most people know, the government has been trying for years to allow one of their political friends into the Bedwell Valley to pursue his commercial schemes, and they’ve seriously eroded the Master Plan to make it possible for him to do so.  Our dream for the park seems to be in direct opposition to government plans, which seem to centre on commercialization and privatization.  With these differences in park philosophy coming to a head, the government may not view our Centennial Project with favour.

We believe the political and ideological story which is currently being played out in the Bedwell is extremely important, not only for Strathcona Park, but for the future of our entire provincial park system.  The Bedwell Centennial Trail is intended to show that it’s neither necessary nor desirable for the government to donate pieces of our provincial parks to their commercial and political buddies in order to provide trails and facilities for our parks.   Not only are volunteers more than capable of providing and maintaining facilities such as park trails, (as they’ve frequently done in the past) but people genuinely enjoy doing so, and develop an enriched sense of stewardship as well as many other side benefits as a result.

Actions speak louder than words.  So far, thousands of people have used thousands of words, with absolutely no discernible effect on the government.  We believe it’s time to demonstrate, in a concrete and positive way, that we care about Strathcona Park and we’re willing to work actively and constructively to prevent them from giving the Bedwell Valley to their political friend to satisfy his intrusive commercial desires.

Plan to join us in the Bedwell in August.  We offer rewarding work, good conversation, and lots of fun.  We’ll provide more info as it comes available, but  if you already know you’re interested and want to be kept informed, please tell me.

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