Courtney Ketchum is among a group of Sproat Lake residents trying to prevent logging of a popular community asset, Holy Cow Trail (PHOTO COURTESY MIKE YOUDS).

Courtney Ketchum is among a group of Sproat Lake residents trying to prevent logging of a popular community asset, Holy Cow Trail (PHOTO COURTESY MIKE YOUDS).

Sproat Lake residents want popular Alberni Valley trail spared

Talks continue with Mosaic Forest Management

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

A group of Sproat Lake residents is blocking a Mosaic gate, trying to save a popular trail, while a separate group remains at the table, hoping to find a compromise on logging that was set to begin a week ago.

“We’re continuing discussions with Mosaic, as recently as yesterday,” said Gary McCaig, a director of Sproat Lake Woodlands Society. “We’re still pressing them to make some adjustments to their logging plans. We’re not a part of the protest.”

The protest began last week when Mosaic Forest Management gave notice of intent to begin harvesting activities on a seven-hectare cut block surrounding the Holy Cow Trail, located above Stirling Arm Drive, during the week of March 7.

Each weekday since then, Courtney Ketchum and her neighbours have rallied at a Mosaic gate with the intent of preventing access by loggers to mature forest sandwiched between Stirling Arm Drive and Ash Main forestry road. No logging crews showed up the first week.

“So many residents are shocked at what’s going on,” said Ketchum, who treasures the trail and feels the logging is too close to homes. “They didn’t have any idea.”

They want Mosaic to defer logging the forest until it can be legally protected. A change.org petition to that effect drew 600 signatures in four days.

“It’s called Holy Cow because, ‘Holy cow, it’s so beautiful,’” Ketchum said.

Sproat Lake Woodlands Society has been working collaboratively with Mosaic on the company’s logging plans for some time, McCaig said.

Mosaic presented its harvest plans to the society in December. In February, the society proposed a joint initiative to preserve forest surrounding the trail. They sought a two-year pause in logging. Their ultimate goal was to see the area preserved as a neighbourhood park around natural assets such as mature western red cedar with mossy undergrowth.

Mosaic responded with a “partial cut prescription” on both sides of the trail but rejected a pause and park creation as too complex and time-consuming. The company says its approach will recognize the community interest in the trail. Trail users say the plan would preserve only a small portion of the old cedars.

“Our valley is being turned into a tree farm,” said Ketchum, who believes logging has intensified in recent years. “It is about the entire valley and this is only the beginning. We hope we can spur more people to stand up for the valley. This is just going to continue if we don’t stand up.”

Penny Cote, Sproat Lake area director with Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, said their hands are tied because it involves privately owned forest land.

“All we can ask is that they consult, make some concessions, be responsible in what they do and take into consideration community values,” Cote said.

Mosaic had taken steps to inform residents with a presentation to the community association and engaged in discussions with the Woodlands Society.

“No, this is not an isolated issue,” Cote said. “There has been quite extensive harvest in a lot of areas,” she said, noting that Beaufort residents are also concerned about water impacts from logging.

Cote said she has good relations with Mosaic and has notified the company of community protests over its decision. She also planned to meet with ACRD staff Monday to see if any further consultation is possible with Mosaic.

Sabrina Zimmerman, another concerned lake resident, contends that Mosaic’s harvest plans are inconsistent with provincial old growth policy aimed at saving trees 150 years old or older. She challenges the company’s assessment that the trees to be logged are second growth and has contacted B.C. Investment Management Corporation, which co-owns Mosaic (with the Public Sector Pension Investment Board), arguing that the logging plan contradicts corporate principles.

“This shouldn’t be happening this close to residents and to trees that are so old and significant,” Zimmerman said.

Port Alberni