A pine marten in the Maplehurst hills. Denise McEwen photo

New woodlot raises concerns for Alberni Valley trail

A new woodlot north of Maplehurst Park has trail users worried

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

A new woodlot north of Maplehurst Park has trail users worried that part of a community trail network could be obliterated by logging.

The forest covered hills that straddle Kitsuksis Creek in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) contain a network of trails and footbridges built by volunteers over the past 10-15 years. A large section of the Maplehurst trail loops north of the park through the newly designated woodlot, a common form of forest tenure in Crown timber around B.C. communities.

Judy Carlson, who lives near the park, hopes the trail can somehow be preserved, possibly through an exchange for timber rights elsewhere. She has posted notices along the trail, urging others to register their concerns during a public consultation period for the woodlot licence plan that ends March 11.

“It is the only trail, apart from the ones in Stamp Falls park and Fossli park, that is completely protected from the intrusions of logging,” Carlson noted. “All the other trails in the valley have suffered or are vulnerable to having cut blocks opened up anywhere, beside or across them.”

Before a logging permit is granted, licensees must submit a plan to manage the land base, harvest trees and create employment.

Greenmax Resources of Port Alberni is the licensee of the Kitsuksis woodlot, referred to as Unit C, a 99-hectare parcel that replaces land removed from the company’s woodlot to allow expansion of Alberni Valley Regional Airport.

Owner Dave McBride, holidaying in New Zealand, explained via email that current consultations with the public and local First Nations represent the culmination of a five-year replacement process. He indicated that he is open to discussions with the community beyond March 11 and stressed there is no logging plan in place.

“I am planning to hold a public meeting sometime this year to discuss future plans for the woodlot in this area,” McBride wrote. “I will be consulting with any interested party to develop plans that take all users of the forest into consideration.”

Concerns or comments about the woodlot licence plan can be sent to Econ Consulting in Merville via email — mail@econ.ca. McBride pointed out that interested parties may also contact him or David Paul, woodlot forester with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Carlson doesn’t think McBride has much flexibility due to the licence requirements of woodlots. She feels government policy is blind to recreational values and focused only on extracting revenue.

“I know Dave McBride personally and I respect him,” she said. “I know he cares about the trail. He’s a supporter of the trail, but I don’t think he’s got much option.”

McBride believes woodlot tenure benefits communities. Managers are usually local citizens “more than willing to work with the community to create an environment that is inclusive and tries to serve the needs of all forest users,” he noted.

The Maplehurst hills were last logged about 50 years ago. On a walking tour of the trail, Carlson pointed to natural assets, including the endangered western painted turtle, seldom seen pine marten, Garry oak and aspen trees. Kitsuksis Creek provides important habitat for coho. Dozens of people were enjoying the trail on Saturday.

“I find there’s so much logging going on around the Alberni Valley trails,” said Denise McEwen, who frequents Maplehurst. “We need spaces for people to enjoy and it’s a popular trail for children.”

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