Since achieving park status in 2004, Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park has become an increasingly popular and important part of Salt Spring.
Lands were acquired for park purposes after community efforts saw them saved from logging and development at the hands of the Texada Land Corporation. The trail network now in place in the park (and connecting to Mount Maxwell Provincial Park) has made it a centrepiece for people who love to hike and otherwise enjoy nature. Island equestrians have been among those who use the park’s designated multi-use trails.
More recently the bay has seen a resurgence in understanding of its traditional importance to the Quw’utsun’ peoples as Xwaaqwu’um, with various cultural programs and activities taking place there.
One of those activities is a watershed restoration project led by the Quw’utsun’ through the Stqeeye’ Learning Society. Last year it saw creation of three small wetlands to slow sediment-laden runoff, swales made across old logging roads to restore natural flows of spring water and removal of a failing bridge and gravel backfill that was blocking in-stream ponds and culverts and impacting fish habitat as a result. Seeding and planting of wetland forest species and invasive plant removal are also being done.
Unfortunately for island horseback riders, the work resulted in a popular trail being made unusable for their purposes. Other changes prompted by adjacent property-owners’ concerns have also reduced multi-use trail options. The equestrian community understands the value of the watershed restoration work, but feels inadequate effort has been expended by BC Parks to create alternate trails for cyclists and equestrians.
As proponents of multi-use trails have pointed out, equestrian use has been part of the Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park vision since the early days and is prominent in its official park management plan. An online petition in support of multi-use trails has seen almost 1,400 signatures to date, so this is an issue of concern to many people.
A potential alternative an island group has identified should be seriously explored, and if that does not prove viable then another should be found.
BC Parks needs to take the time to listen to community members and explore all alternative solutions with an open mind.