Volunteer Blog: Putting your mark on the history of Strathcona Park


As a self-described Park Enthusiast, I had been wanting to visit Strathcona Provincial Park for years. Since it bears the honour of being British Columbia's first Provincial Park, I imagined breathtaking scenery bursting with wildlife.

And it is that. But it is also a fascinating story of British Columbia's relationship with parks and natural spaces.

Strathcona Provincial Park was first designated a park in 1911. I visited for the first time in March of 2017. I was on a backcountry ski trip with my friend Sarah, her dad, and a few of their family friends, all (apart from me) locals to Vancouver Island and knowledgeable about the history of Strathcona.

The first thing you notice when driving into Strathcona from Campbell River is that the roads are paved. For a fairly remote park, this is quite remarkable in BC. After noticing this, I promptly fell asleep (to be fair, in the words of Sarah's dad, we had left at "the crack of dark-'o-clock"). But I woke up toward the end of our drive, bringing me to the second surprise (and likely the reason for the pavement): a large, active mine. In the middle of the park. Despite the fact that the park was created in 1911, mining and logging operations were approved starting in 1939. In 1959, a copper/lead/zinc mine opened and it continues to operate today.

A few minutes after passing the mine, we arrived at the trailhead, put on our skis, and began the trek up to our destination: Mt. Myra. As with most backcountry ski trips I go on, we did not achieve our objective. But it was a beautiful day, I skied across a frozen lake for the first time, and I learned that I cannot keep up with people 2.5 times my age.

This July, I returned to Strathcona with my partner Andrew. We had no plans when we arrived (although I did know that I wanted to hide a geocache somewhere in the park). On of the days we decided to go canoeing. We rented a canoe from Strathcona Park Lodge and canoed along Buttle Lake. Before we left, the guide warned us to avoid stumps and logs resting just under the water, and we saw some gnarly (in every sense of the word) old stumps on the edge of the lake.

In 1948, there was a hydroelectric project at Elk Falls. This flooded the Elk River, and caused the level of Buttle Lake to rise dramatically. In preparation, the shorelines of the lake were logged to make way for the water. More than 60 years later, we can still the evidence left behind.

 

This is a park that has existed through changing politics and conservation ideology, and the landscape still tells a story of that changing relationship with the land. On July 22nd, on behalf of CPAWS-BC, I added my own piece to the story. If you take the Karst Creek trail (and you should - it is an easy, family friendly walk that features beautiful forest and a disappearing waterfall!), you will find a geocache. In it, is a message.

 

 

The message asks us all to start interacting with our parks in a different way. 100 years from now, visitors will still be able to tell what our priorities were. They will be able to tell how we used these landscapes.

 

 

 

At CPAWS, we're hoping that the story the land tells is that we took care of our parks - using them as incredible, unique opportunities for responsible recreation and education. We all have the power to contribute to that story.

 

 

 

By Miki Eslake, CPAWS-BC Public Educator & Volunteer Coordinator

Miki is an aspiring Naturalist from Pemberton, BC, now living in Vancouver and working in Environmental Education.

E-mail volunteer@cpawsbc.org to learn about upcoming volunteer opportunities and how you can join the movement to stand up for parks!