FORESTRY WEEK: Alberni Valley Community Forest sees increased use

Trail system showcases biodiversity of Alberni Valley’s forests, AVCF practices

Alberni Valley residents made year-round use of the trail system throughout the Alberni Valley Community Forest during COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. (PHOTO COURTESY AVCF)

Alberni Valley residents made year-round use of the trail system throughout the Alberni Valley Community Forest during COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. (PHOTO COURTESY AVCF)

The Alberni Valley Community Forest continues to see an increase in outdoor recreational use, says manager Chris Law.

The community forest is located in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District approximately 13 kilometres west of Port Alberni. It comprises 6,378 hectares and has a multitude of public trails of varying degrees of difficulty.

The forest is located within Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44 and is separated into two distinct areas: Sproat Operating Area and Taylor Operating Area.

The Sproat Operating Area is located approximately 11 km northwest of Port Alberni, north of Highway 4, opposite Sproat Lake Landing. It slopes southward from the height of land between the Great Central Lake watershed, and Highway 4 and is bounded to the east by private land owned by Island Timberlands, and to the west by Friesen Creek. The area encompasses 3000 hectares.

The Taylor Operating Area slopes northward from the height of land between Mount Klitsa and Adder Mountain, and Highway 4 at Sutton Creek and the Taylor River. It is bounded to the east by Klitsa Creek and to the west by a southeast to northwest line running along the height of land from Adder Mountain to Sutton Pass east of the boundary of Clayoquot Sound. The area encompasses 3378 hectares.

The AVCF has an annual allowable cut of 19,000 cubic metres, but Law says they stick to 10,000 cubic metres or less “which is what we feel is a sustainable rate of harvest.”

The idea behind the community forest was to put control of land and resources in local hands while creating a viable timber and non-timber forest resource business. The City of Port Alberni is the sole owner of the forest.

Law, his crews and contractors have a symbiotic relationship with the public when it comes to getting work accomplished within the working forest. Whether it’s stacking wood for people to cut under permit or ensuring the vast trail system is safe for users, Law always has the public in mind.

The firewood cutting program was more popular than ever in 2020 as more people stuck close to home, Law said. The AVCF works with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and National Resource Operations, which issues firewood cutting permits.

In 2020 crews moved waste wood to the side of the logging roads within the forest for safe public access. Providing this waste wood reduces the need to burn slash piles so it reduces forest fire risk, Law said. This also helped cut down on fire hazard.

It is important to only cut in the areas indicated on maps provided on the AVCF web page, found at communityforest.ca/firewood.

Permits may be filled out online on the South Island Forest District web page (search “personal use firewood cutting on Crown land”) or in person at the Port Alberni office, 4885 Cherry Creek Rd.

The Weiner Creek and Bookout Creek areas are most popular with outdoor recreation enthusiasts, whether it be walkers, hikers or in winter, skiers and snowshoers. Regular brush cutting is done on trails, and last winter some trails around Weiner Creek were rerouted to accommodate blasting and provide better scenic views.

While logging regularly occurs in the forest—it is a working forest, after all—sustainability is always top of mind. In 2020 more than 48,000 trees were planted.

Although there were no timber sales in 2020, the AVCF was still in a position to write a $300,000 dividend cheque to the City of Port Alberni.

To learn more about the Alberni Valley Community Forest and to view the 2020 AGM presentation, visit the website at communityforest.ca.

Alberni Valleyforestry