Public support needed to secure Erskine trail

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In a year of sudden land protection opportunities, Salt Springers have been offered one more chance to acquire a piece of forest and keep it open to public use.

Campaign partners BC Parks, the BC Parks Foundation and the Salt Spring Trail and Nature Club are seeking to secure a key piece of property in the middle of the trail from Toynbee Road to Mount Erskine. Members of the public have until Feb. 10, 2021 to dig deep and help find the $244,000 needed to keep the trail open.

Charles Kahn, who is the Trail and Nature Club president and author of Hiking the Gulf Islands, observed this initiative may not be as dazzling as some of the land acquisition campaigns that have recently hit the island. Without the purchase, though, he warns a valuable and well-used community amenity could be lost for good. 

“This is basically securing an existing trail, and we’ve been losing trails left, right and centre because of development. We used to be able to walk everywhere on this island because the land was open,” Kahn said.

Until now, the Toynbee trail has been one of those places where people walked freely over private land without problem, and most likely without even knowing it. Kahn explained there is a right of way from Toynbee Road to the Manzanita Ridge Nature Reserve on title in favour of the Salt Spring Conservancy, which has agreed to let the public use it indefinitely. However, the trail then cuts across a corner of private land on its way from the nature reserve to Mount Erskine Provincial Park. 

“Right now, the owners are ignoring the fact that people are trespassing, and people assume it will always be like that,” Kahn said. 

He noted that with its 360-degree views, that area of the ridge would also be prime space for a new house.

The owner is not interested in donating a right of way and has signed a contract with BC Parks to sell a one-acre piece for fair market value, in order to leave the trail intact. Kahn said this is important because the land on the south side of the ridge is too steep to reroute the trail. As well, the conservancy has not wanted to allow trails on that area of the Manzanita Ridge Nature Reserve, and any alternative route would be totally on the conservancy’s property.

“This doesn’t require building anything new, and it maintains the trail in perpetuity,” Kahn said of the purchase.

The Mount Erskine Park Trail Connection Fundraiser is only the third land acquisition campaign through the BC Parks Foundation. 

Previous initiatives led to land protection at Princess Louisa Inlet, and recently the purchase of West Ballenas Island. 

“The addition of this land to Mount Erskine Provincial Park will secure public access to one of the longest public trails on Salt Spring Island. Just as important, the addition of this piece of land would provide the park with several additional beautiful viewpoints and potential picnic sites,” campaign material states.

As the BC Parks Foundation is a registered, non-profit organization, every donation over $20 will be eligible for a charitable tax receipt. They also accept non-cash donations through stocks and securities, which Kahn said is great for people looking for relief on their capital gains tax, and other options. 

Contact gifts@bcparksfoundation.ca to learn more.

Donations can be made online at https://bcparksfoundation.ca/projects/enhance/mount-erskine-park/, by emailing gifts@bcparksfoundation.ca, or by calling the BC Parks Foundation at 604-343-3975. 

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