Taking the Wilderness Out of the Trail

On the evening of February 15th, the Juan de Fuca Land Use Committee gave preliminary approval for Ender Ilkay’s plan to build 300 vacation houses on the Juan de Fuca trail. This guest blog by Bobby Arbess is about the proposed development and what it means for the wilderness trail.

Guest Blog by Bobby Arbess

A couple of months ago I forfeited my Boxing Day super-deals to join a group of like-minded nature nuts to walk the part of the Juan de Fuca trail adjacent to the proposed resort development near China Beach. I wanted to know whether the seemingly innocuous plan to tuck a few hundred “cabins” into the maturing tree plantation above the wilderness trail was worth a big fight.

After walking the land, I am a believer that the Marine Trail Resort will be intrusive. Property lines encroach on the trail system and the percolation pits, testing for possible septic field sites, are dug within a stone’s throw from the park and above two streams. The project will be a bad deal for the public and the region.

The sprawling resort development is proposed by Vancouver developer, Ender Ilkay. It would bring hundreds of seasonal strata homes, a widespread paved road network, increased traffic, garbage and septic systems just above the trail.  And with a 20 year build-out period, the development poses a significant disturbance to the wilderness qualities of a major West Coast wilderness destination.

The second-growth forests located above the magnificent stretch of wild marine shoreline, in many places starkly void of understory vegetation, are far from pristine. They are nonetheless some of the oldest tree plantations on the island, planted at the beginning of the era of industrial forestry, after WWII and showing signs of maturing well. There is an abundance of woody biomass on the forest floor, left after the land was clear-cut by Western Forest Products, who abandoned their commitment to local forestry after liquidating the old-growth stands (and are now able to sell the land to developers with the blessing of the BC Liberals). Left to natural forest succession, these mature plantations will develop the multi-layered forest canopy structure that allows biological diversity to once again thrive. A resort development will never allow that healing to happen.

Wilderness recreation corridors require sizable buffers to protect core wilderness areas.

Not all wilderness must be pristine. The recovered lands along the road to Port Renfrew are wild in the sense that they are large enough and far enough from a major urban population to allow natural processes and native life-forms to thrive unfettered by human activities. Wilderness recreation corridors require sizable buffers to protect core wilderness areas. The wet and windy West Coast rain-soaked alluvial soils, when robbed of tree roots to anchor the ground, shift and slide easily downhill, which chokes streams and further erodes forests. Openings in the forest near the Juan de Fuca trail for buildings, roads, and sewers will mean more trees falling, blowing down across the trail and further degradation of the park.

Developments that butt up to the park boundary of one of our most critical south island wilderness destinations are a bad idea, plain and simple. The public shouldn’t accept the loss of the heart and soul of an invaluable public treasure like the Juan de Fuca Commonwealth Provincial Park for the sake of one developer’s private economic interest, no matter how persistent he may be and how skilfully he greenwashes his development.

It is time the people of the region insist that the CRD say NO to Ender Ilkay’s Marine Trail Resort and simply and loudly agree that if such a luxury resort goes in along the Juan de Fuca Wilderness trail, it will no longer be a wilderness.

On occasion Dogwood Initiative posts blogs written by our supporters. If you’ve got a topic you’d like to write about get in touch with us at  info@dogwoodinitaitve.org 

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