Conservation officer Mike Peters stands in an area on Vedder Mountain

Conservation officer Mike Peters stands in an area on Vedder Mountain

Vedder Mountain eyed for forest designation

The province plans to transform Vedder Mountain into an interpretive forest. Local residents welcome this as a solution to illegal dumping.

A plan is underway to transform most of Vedder Mountain into an interpretive forest site, which local residents welcome as the only viable, long-term solution to illegal dumping on the mountain. The province’s recreation management branch is holding the first open house next Wednesday night in Yarrow to tease out concerns about the project.

About 90 per cent of Vedder Mountain is crown land. Mike Peters, provincial recreation officer for the Chilliwack district, is working alongside the Vedder Mountain Trails Association to establish all of these “thousands and thousands of hectares” as an interpretive forest. This means that the area would become a designated provincial recreation site, which allows the government to apply for operational and capital funding to manage it.

“We have opportunities every year to apply for capital projects, to build new rec sites, and build trails, and do developments on the land. We can only do those when they’re in areas established under legislation,” says Peters.

This includes applying for funds to build a proper parking lot, install outhouses, improve and maintain the trail network, and post legal signs that explain the purpose of the trail. Provincial conservation officers and natural resources officers would have legal enforcement rights over the uses of the area.

“It gives the province some tools that we don’t have. We could bring in recreation regulation and apply that to the mountain to help control uses up there. And still not impacting industry and other natural resource operations that are going on up there,” says Peters.

The area would not be a “park,” but rather a “working forest,” says Peters. Logging operations would continue, people would still live on the mountain, species at risk would remain protected, and recreation would expand.

The area would encompass some of the common sites where people illegally dump waste, including an informal shooting range that is easy to identify through the thousands of leftover spent shells.

Right now, there is no department with a mandate to clean up household waste dumped on Crown land.

“There is nobody who is ultimately responsible,” says Peters.

The only recourse is enforcement by conservation officers, who work after the fact and rely on people to call in with information on polluters.

Another major concern is the discharging of firearms. Although currently legal on the mountain, the activity can pose a security risk to residents at the mountain base.

People also frequently hold parties on the land, which disturb local residents.

The Vedder Mountain interpretive forest would be only the second such site in the Lower Mainland. The other is the recently established Mission Interpretive Forest. The area is infamous for attracting a tremendous amount of burned cars, shootings, and waste dumping, to a much greater extent than on Vedder Mountain.

“We have a lot of problems over there. So this is one little step to try to give that back as a family place to play,” says Peters.

The main access point for the Vedder Mountain interpretive forest would be from the eastern Cultus Lake side, because that is the only public access forestry road.

Private land lies at the base of Vedder Mountain. On the West side, people need to pass on a private road before getting to crown land, where the interpretive forest would be. Because private land is closest to the main road, Majuba Hill, it receives the most illegal dumping. The interpretive forest would not extend to here, so the area would not directly receive its benefits.

Nevertheless, local landowners expect that the forest would discourage illegal dumping even on their land, because more people using the trails means more visibility on polluters.

Vedder Mountain signsA unique environment, Vedder Mountain is one of the best sites to grow trees in the lower mainl

and because of the soil type and elevation. An analysis by a biologist also uncovered unique species that flourish, and may exist, only on the mountain, such as the pacific giant salamander and the tall bugbane plant.

The VMTA has been working to get official recreational status for the extensive network of trails on Vedder Mountain since 2004.

“We did some digging, we found out that none of the trails that were there, even the Vedder Ridge hiking trail that has been there for eons, had no official designation, no legalized status,” says VMTA president and local veterinarian Dr. Mark A. Steinebach.

Once the province established the new position of recreation officer about six years ago, which Mike Peters holds, Steinebach and Peters came up with the interpretive forest plan. The two have been seriously pushing this plan forward for the last two years.

Peters has held talks with First Nations groups, industry, and recreational groups. He has also looked at how to ensure that wild habitats and species at risk remain protected.

He is now opening up the floor to the public to voice their concerns, and has locally distributed 2,000 flyers to advertise the open house, which will be on Wednesday, March 27, 7–9 p.m., at Yarrow Elementary School.

“Is there a red flag that we haven’t seen yet? Before we go to referrals, here’s what we’re planning, here’s where we’re at so far, here’s a generic management plan. What are the issues out there?” says Peters.

He will have maps and preliminary project plans on display, and hopes to see residents, city and regional district managers, and industry representatives at the meeting.

Peters hopes to have a public referral in the fall, after which he could begin to hash out the various procedural agreements with First Nations groups and other stakeholders.

“People are coming far and wide to use those trails,” says Steinebach. “If it’s not governed appropriately, and regulated appropriately, it will be destroyed.”

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
Student’s quote in Chilliwack high school yearbook equates graduation with end of slavery

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for missing 20-year-old woman

Police say Alexis Paige Simpson has not been in contact with her family in two months

(Maps.Chilliwack.com)
RCMP seek dash-cam footage after Chilliwack road rage incident

Male driving a black pickup stopped and allegedly threatened to punch another driver

Doses prepared at pop-up vaccine clinic in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, in the M3N postal code, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. ( THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston)
4 vaccine clinics coming to Neighbourhood Learning Centre

Fraser Health made clinics ‘low-barrier’ meaning pre-registration not required

Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford has been convicted of the sexual assault of one of his cab passengers in West Vancouver in January 2019.
Former Abbotsford Hindu temple president convicted of sexual assault

Deepak Sharma assaulted a female passenger when he was a cab driver

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

Most Read