It took Cortes Island many years to have the Whaletown Commons land set aside as a park in 2014.
Now, the Strathcona Regional District hopes to add some adjacent land to expand the size of the park area.
The SRD board unanimously passed a motion at its June meeting to submit an application to the province to acquire the land for annexation. The board needs to give support before the regional district can make the application.
“We need the authority that the board is interested enough,” Chief Administration Officer David Leitch told board members.
Whaletown Commons was created as a community park after the SRD acquired the area from Island Timberlands in 2014. The park includes mature Douglas-fir forest, rare plants and animal species, an undisturbed salmonoid-bearing creek area and a migration corridor for animals.
“This has been one of the three park purchase priorities on Cortes for a decade now,” Area B Director Noba Anderson told her board colleagues.
The area to be added to the park is a 3.87-hectare piece of Crown land next to the northwest corner of the park. One of the main trails in the Whaletown trail system runs through this land. As an SRD report says, keeping the trail system intact is part of the reasoning to annex the site, along with protecting the natural attributes of the land.
Anderson said she supports the proposal, adding she expects SRD staff to engage the community in a more formalized way.
There are some questions about water rights, especially in conjunction with the trail network in the area. Anderson added the SRD has been in communication with some people with water rights on immediately adjacent properties. She and staff have offered to meet again over concerns about trail development in the area.
“I trust that there will be ample opportunity to address the concerns,” she said.
There are three families with water rights to a creek in the area, though Anderson said they needed to clarify whether the water source is on Crown land, saying she has heard contradictory information. The trail system, she said, is not anywhere the creek, adding that volunteers have moved the trail away from the creek up to higher ground.
As part of the process, the regional district needs to get support from First Nations. Anderson met with the Klahoose First Nation earlier in the year, and in March Chief Kevin Peacey confirmed the nation’s support for the area to be turned into a park.
As well, the SRD may not need provincial government sponsorship for the land grant because the value of the land is assessed at less than $100,000. According to the staff report, the cost is estimated to run $450 and be funded from the electoral area’s community parks budget.