Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | August 15, 2014

BEDWELL CENTENNIAL TRAIL UPDATE (and some political ravings, sorry) August 2014

  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.  



  1. Excellent article as usual….

    Bob St.John

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