The good news is that the north side of Cathedral Grove is now open again. The bad news is that Little Qualicum Provincial Park still won’t be open for some time.
Since the windstorm on Dec. 20, 2018 that swept through the Cameron Valley and caused a great deal of damage to both McMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) and Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, crews have been busy cleaning up. As summer is approaching, along with campers and tourist traffic, I thought it was time to find out what has been going in in the closed-off sections of these parks. So I spoke to Monica Valdes Garcia, the Arrowsmith Area Supervisor for BC Parks.
She was quite pleased to say that as of April 12, the north side of Cathedral Grove will be open. Besides the blown down trees, there was significant damage to the rail barriers along this part of the trail system. Fortunately, BC Parks was planning on upgrading this part of the trail this year anyway. As of the time of this writing, they are just putting the finishing touches on new ramps and railings from the parking area down to the trail. The road to the cabins on the other side of the lake has been cleaned up, allowing those residents access to them. But still dozens of big old trees still lie on their sides where they fell. This trail is quite a different place now. Although huge trees still populate the surroundings, the gaps where the others once stood makes the trail a brighter place to be.
The situation is much different for Little Qualicum Falls. It is still closed and dates for reopening the park this year are undecided. All three portions of the park are heavily damaged—the day-use area, the upper campgrounds and the lower campgrounds. Washrooms, picnic tables and refuse containers have been crushed. Some of the roads still haven’t been cleared in the lower campground. Although there are still many trees standing, it is obvious the park will have a new complexion from now on. The focus is currently on clearing the downed trees from the roads and from around the infrastructure. When that is done, the plan is to assess the damage to the infrastructure and start working on it. Valdes Garcia says that she hopes to see the day-use area and either the upper or lower campground open later this year, but she wasn’t able to offer any estimate as to when that would be.
The best news from this park is that the older parts of it, in the day-use area where the big picnic shelter and where all the stone-work is, were only lightly impacted. Work is being done there now. So, with any luck, later this summer we may be able to visit the waterfalls the park is named after.
There have been damaging winds in this area before. In fact, records of such winds go back many years. They have been given a name—the Qualicum Wind. On New Year’s Day, 1997, an earlier windstorm struck Cathedral Grove. After that event, a report was written that described similar events coming through the Cameron/Qualicum Valley in 1950, 1921, 1880. So these kinds of events are bound to continue happening every 20 to 40 years or so throughout time.
But the catastrophic effects on the park forests will diminish. In Cathedral Grove, the decline of the great Douglas Fir specimens will continue as the dominance of Cedar and Hemlock trees increase. And in Little Qualicum Falls, some active vegetation management may have to be done to more quickly provide shade for campers of the future, and to re-establish natural vegetation before the Scotch Broom takes over.
Que sera, sera.