This letter is to wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a Happy Hanukah. I will also review some of the activities and happenings this year and look ahead a little.
2011 was a very busy and political year that had us all involved in a number of issues although not always as Community Trails Society members.
Hikes and Trails
We continue to enjoy our first Saturday of the month walks and hikes. In September we guided the Victoria Natural History Society around the Sooke Potholes Regional Park A highlight of the walk was a concert by an American Dipper Many of us had never heard one sing. In October we took the Canada World Youth Mozambique Sooke Exchange on a hike to the summits of Broomhill as their introduction to the area. It was an enjoyable experience for all.
Members have been active in publishing trail descriptions and articles in the Rural Observer. We have a library of documented trails in the form of GPS tracks and waypoints on a topographical map. Members wishing to hike in the wilderness may request a map of their area of interest. If available, maps can be e-mailed in PDF format.
Support the Juan de Fuca Marine Park
The Society did not take an official position on the controversial rezoning application by Marine Trail Holdings Inc. that would have, if successful, allowed approximately 300 vacation homes through a number of strata corporations to be built alongside the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. It is outside our constitutional mandate to oppose developments, as distinct from advocating for trails and green space. However, many of our members became passionately involved and helped to maintain the zoning designated in the OCP for the Rural Resource Lands. Our Regional Director and the CRD Board LUC (A) sensibly took the overwhelming community response against the rezoning seriously and voted against going forward with the Marine Trail Holdings proposal.
The Society has, however, taken a position on advocating for public acquisition of all lands between Highway 14 and the coast to to be added to the Juan de Fuca Marine Park. This would include some Crown Land as well as land that is currently privately owned and zoned for resource use. We believe that expanding the existing park is essential for the ongoing protection of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail in the future. Members have written a number of letters to the CRD and the Provincial Government to urge purchase of these lands for park. We will continue to advocate for these lands by writing letters and making common cause with like minded organizations.
Otter Point Official Community Plan
The Society kept members who live in Otter Point informed of the process and encouraged their participation in the public process of revising the Official Community Plan for Otter Point In the past, the Society also participated in the development of the Sooke OCP and the Master Trails Plan for the District of Sooke.
For Otter Point, members attended the Community visioning sessions and helped to identify the requirement for linked trails and park spaces. With other members of the community who attended, the provision of connected trails has emerged as the number 1 priority. The Official Community Plan Committee has completed its deliberations. The OCP writing is now in the hands of the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area planning staff. We can expect written drafts in the New Year. We will be asking you to review these plans when they come out for comment. The OCP is the single most important document to shape the community and its trails and amenities for the future.
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Parks and Recreation Commission
The Society continues to work closely with the JdFEA Parks and Recreation Commission to develop community trails and parks. We contributed to the information kiosk at William Simmons Memorial Park at Poirier Lake. We have also signed a stewardship agreement with the Parks Commission for the trail system centered on William Simmons Memorial Park. This is consistent with the Commission's Policy of working with community groups to manage the creation and maintenance of trails. The Butler and Wieland Trails will provide public access to Crown land that is historically used for recreation by area residents. The trail designed by the Parks and Recreation Commission to be roughed in by our volunteers under this stewardship agreement, will run along a gazetted road just south of the Sooke Business Park. A planned extension to Kemp Lake Rd to Connect with the King Creek trail system depends on achieving a statutory of right away across private land. Members worked on the Wieland Trail earlier this fall but more work need to be done. The directors will issue a call for work parties shortly to continue this work.
Wild Beaches and Hills Campaign
In 2009 the Society was instrumental in defining which lands should be purchased when Western Forest Products lands taken out of the tree farm license became available on the real estate market. The result was that the CRD, Provincial Government and The Land Conservancy (TLC) acquired Sandcut Beach and lands stretching to Jordan River including the surfing camp site and beach. Also included in this purchase were lands in the Sooke hills to add to the Sea to Sea Green/Blue Belt. These lands have only been partially paid for and need fund raising to complete the transaction. Last year the Society contributed to the TLC Wild Beaches and Hills Campaign. We hope to present a resolution at our AGM to do so again.
To complement the vision of public trails in the Shirley area, a statutory of right away by Priest Cabin Park to allow continued hiking trails to the Matterhorn, above French Beach was also negotiated.
The CRD has done a marvelous job of improving the parking area at Sandcut beach and the access trail. If you have not yet visited this site, it is well worth the visit. Sandcut Beach is a jewel. As usual, be prepared to pack out your own rubbish and maybe, rubbish left there by others.
Sea to Sea Green /Blue Belt Sooke Hills
We were also able to support CRD Parks' new trail head at Harbourview Road. Approval to go ahead with this required rezoning by Sooke Council.
During 2010, society members attended a number of Sooke Council meetings to speak in favour of the rezoning, and it was approved. The trail head and parking lot at Harbourview is ready to for use though not officially open. It has toilets, parking for horse trailers, even a drinking trough for horses. It is certainly worth a visit. There are multitudes of trails in and around Mt. Manual Quimper accessible from the trail head. When using these trails, please be aware that many are biking trails with mountain bikers hurtling themselves around elaborately constructed and banked trails. The main trail (Harbourview) provides a backbone access to hiking and biking trails and wilderness venues from Finlayson Arm to the Sooke River, the Water Board Reserve lands to Highway 14.
The Juan de Fuca Community Trails Society is planning its Annual General Meeting for February 2012. Our speaker will be Ray Zimmerman, who was a prime mover in the acquisition of lands for the Sea to Sea Green/ Blue Belt. This Green/Blue Belt now provides us all with huge areas of wilderness stretching from Finlayson Arm to the Sooke River. This park and park reserve provides for isolation from urban sprawl as well as soul restoring wilderness hiking and riding trails. Please come to listen to Ray Zimmerman describe how this was done.
Support of Slow Food Cycle
Congratulations to Lee Hindrichs and her team for the Slow Food Cycle in October 2011. Many of our members were involved in this successful event. The JdF Community Trail Society donated material and erected a directional sign at one of the key cross trails in Sooke. This sign will soon sport our LOGO. The Society hopes to get more involved next year.
Society membership stands at 111. We are now in the midst of our renewal campaign for 2012. If you have not renewed, please do so as convenient. We are hoping to keep our current membership and to grow by about 10% as we have done every year since we started. Your membership, even if you cannot participate actively, is important. In advocacy, numbers count. One of the first questions asked by a politician when faced with a request is, "How many people do you represent?"
If you have not yet done so, please send your $10.00 membership fee to: Juan de Fuca Community Trails Society, Attention Heather Phillips 2459 Kemp Lake Rd, Sooke BC V9Z 0R3
Wishing you a Happy Holiday on behalf of all our Directors and Steering Committee Members
Yours Sid Jorna, President.