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Province acquires more land for marine park

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 10:19 PST, Wed January 13, 2021

Last Updated: 10:55 PST, Wed January 13, 2021

When George Creek, president of the BC Marine Parks Forever Society, first sailed to the Octopus Islands in 2000, he knew he had found a special place.

The water surrounding the small islands was pristine and calm. Bald eagles flew above the rocky shorelines. It's a place that made Creek feel at peace.

"It's a great place to get away from it all and enjoy nature," Creek, who used to frequently visit the islands, said. "It also has good anchorages and a hiking trail to a lake, which makes it a popular destination for boaters."

Located near Quadra Island, Octopus Islands Marine Provincial Park was established in 1974 to provide opportunities for marine recreation and protect a fragile coastal western hemlock ecosystem and habitat for a variety of marine species. The size of the park has been growing since then with the help of Creek and the BC Marine Parks Forever Society, a volunteer organization that raises funds to help BC Parks acquire land for new marine parks and enhance existing ones.

Since the society was founded in 1990 by the Council of BC Yacht Clubs, it has received more than $2 million in donations to help purchase land for 10 marine parks, including the Octopus Islands. Three donations have been made for the Octopus Islands. This includes the most recent $100,000 donation that has helped BC Parks purchase a 20-hectare island intended to be added to the 862-hectare park.

"I take a lot of pride in being able to contribute to the health of our marine parks," Creek said. "If we don't protect these areas, a lot of them could get taken over by commercial development."

For BC Parks area supervisor Derek Moore, it's the historical values of the Octopus Islands that make it a special place. A short portage trail from Small Inlet Provincial Park on the west side of Quadra Island can be accessed from the Octopus Islands. The trail was heavily used by Indigenous peoples long before the park was established. The area, studied by archeological researchers, is also home to culturally constructed clam gardens that provided food for coastal communities.

"Even though it's remote, it's important to have places like this protected for future generations to come and visit," Moore said. "That's one of the biggest joys of working with BC Parks. When we get these land acquisitions, I'm not thinking what the park will look like in five to 10 yearsit's the next 100 years."

Noting the park is also on a major kayaking route, Moore said, "You can explore for days on a kayak in that area. It's a fabulous place for day users, overnight trips and will still be used 100 years from now."

Through the acquisition of private land and partnerships with conservation groups and individual donors, the Province regularly adds land to the parks and protected areas system, which now covers approximately 14.4 per cent of the provincial land base. When the Province acquires new land, there are several steps before it can become a park or protected area, such as engagement with Indigenous nations, consultation with local government, defining a legal boundary and legal designation.

Learn more at http://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/octopus/.

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