People in the Alberni Valley turned to trails like the Bingo Bay Trail inside the Alberni Valley Community Forest to be physically distanced outdoors during the height of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. June 12, 2020 (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Alberni Valley Community Forest sees increased use during COVID-19

People turned to outdoor trails during isolation period, says forest manager

When B.C.’s medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged people to get outdoors during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic’s social distancing, people in Port Alberni listened. It resulted in higher-than-ever visitation at the Alberni Valley Community Forest, manager Chris Law said.

Walkers, hikers, cyclists and ATV riders all took advantage of the 25 kilometres of marked trails inside the community forest, located west of Sproat Lake Provincial Park and across from Sproat Lake Landing. There are also numerous unmarked trails that people have created over the years, Law noted.

“The use went up and it was respectful,” he added, with very little garbage left behind.

Law lives near the forest and said the access points were constantly in use. “Throughout the whole COVID-19 time and people’s ability to do things was restricted there were always four or five cars at access points to the trails.

“Everytime we went out in the last two months we would always meet people,” he added. “People couldn’t go shopping so everyone increased their outdoor recreation.

READ: Alberni Valley Community Forest manager hosts open house

READ: Playing in the community forest

“It was very encouraging to see the respectful use of the forest for recreation.”

Law also opened up a section for firewood cutting, and the use was constant. He estimates hundreds of truckloads of firewood left the lot.

“That was good to see. We made an effort to make the firewood easy for people to get.” People were able to apply for firewood permits online through the South Island Natural Resource District website.

Having people take excess wood away from the site means less waste to burn later in the year, he added.

Maps of the community forest and other information can be found online at https://communityforest.ca. Maps are under the “Recreation” tab.

The community forest is a working forest (although due to COVID-19 there is no active logging right now. Harvesting is planned for the fall of 2020). “We’re working diligently and harvesting sustainably,” said Law. “We’re harvesting less than we’re allowed to…to make sure it’s sustainable.”

The annual allowable cut (AAC) is 18,156 cubic metres, but they’re cutting around 13,000 cubic metres from various areas in the 6,378-hectare forest.

Law was able to keep operating through the COVID-19 shutdowns and keep people employed because they were considered an essential service. This meant he was able to fulfill his reforestation obligations—they had tree planters in the community forest as usual.

The Community Forest’s annual general meeting will take place this Thursday, June 18, 3 p.m. at the Rollin Art Centre (3061 Eighth Ave., Port Alberni, at Argyle Street) in the gardens.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, safety measures and physical distancing must be observed at the AGM. Only 30 people will be permitted.

For more information, e-mail manager@communityforest.ca or call 250-731-5552.

READ: Alberni Valley Community Forest presents city with $150,000



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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