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Lantzville wants to protect creek corridor

<p>A section of Lantzville forest. Lantzville district council supports Save Lantzville Forests’ proposal to designate part of a woodlot for conservation. (NEWS BULLETIN file)</p> -

A section of Lantzville forest. Lantzville district council supports Save Lantzville Forests’ proposal to designate part of a woodlot for conservation. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

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A group of residents' proposal to protect a section of Knarston Creek has received support from Lantzville councillors.

On Monday Lantzville councillors voted 6-1 in favour of supporting Save Lantzville Forest's proposal for the creation of a 60-hectare corridor along Knarston Creek located within Woodlot 1475 as well as providing some "level of compensation" to the woodlot's owner, provided that there are parties or groups who would also provide financial compensation.

Created by Lantzville resident's Niels Schwarz, Ted Gullison and Derek Riley, the proposal calls for around 30 hectares of forest, including coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, to be designated for conservation, while another 30 hectares would be earmarked for public recreational use.

The proposal was submitted to Michelle Stilwell, who was then the minister of social development and social innovation, earlier this year. The 256-hectare woodlot is owned by the province and any approval of environmental protection or a recreational trail needs to go through the provincial government, the Nanoose First Nation and John Gregson, the woodlot's licence holder.

Coun. Mark Swain, who made the motion, told councillors that efforts to protect part of the Woodlot 1475 has been going for years and it is now time for Lantzville to move the issue forward.

"They have brought this to the one yard line," Swain said. "We need to get behind them as this council should be doing and promote it."

Swain told councillors that he comes from a blue-collar family in the paper industry and was originally not overly concerned about logging taking place within Woodlot 1475. He said that after studying the issue he has realized that the proposed protected area within the woodlot is a "treasure" to the community that must be protected.

"This woodlot is the backyard for a lot of our neighbours here in Lantzville," he said.

Councillors were generally supportive of the proposal, but recognized that the motion is merely a letter and that any movement on the issue or proposed corridor lies with the province.

"I think most people in this room know the real authority to change this is with the provincial government. It is great to see so many people come out and express passion for it. [I] just request that you move that up the chain," said Coun. John Coulson.

Coun. Dot Neary, the only councillor to vote against the motion, said she cannot justify the potential costs that could "come down the line" for the district, if the corridor were to come to fruition.

"There are no funding details," Neary said. "We have not received any information about what this cost of acquisition might be and in addition to the cost of acquisition there will be the cost of maintenance."

She said Lantzville already has a "plethora of open spaces" for recreation and that the concept of protecting a "precious" eco-system and promoting it as a recreational area that can benefit Lantzville residents is somewhat paradoxical.

"To me there is almost a little bit of a friction there between the two. Is this an environmentally sensitive area that demands huge protection or is it more suitable for a recreation area, which is it?"

Although Coun. Bob Colclough voted in favour of the motion and was generally supportive of it, he also had some concerns around the financial costs that could result in the future. He said residents should realize that any financial compensation paid out by the district won't be cheap.

"People have to be aware that it is going to be expensive and there is a lot of opportunity for interest groups and people in the community to get involved on that side of it," he said.

nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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