BC Marine Trails has released the Feasibility Study Report for a proposed Discovery Islands Marine Trail involving the region between Powell River, Campbell River and Sayward.
The project was undertaken through 2018 with funding from Island Coastal Economic Trust and the BC Rural Dividend Fund. The goal was to gain input into the pros and cons of a marine trail system transiting the region. The study entailed six public forums, presentations to five municipal councils, engagements with 10 First Nations and more than 100 consultations with stakeholders, organizations and individuals.
The project was undertaken as a feasibility study to find a path through the myriad interests and issues that are present in the region. The feasibility study report recommends the following strategies, among many others:
- A relaxed timeline to work to the speed of the necessary First Nations engagements and other interested parties;
- A collaborative approach to potentially conflicting interests including a Strathcona Regional District integrated community sustainability study and pre-existing tourism strategies; and
- A comprehensive site planning strategy to address environmental concerns and potential site degradation from continued recreational use.
The BCMT has defined its future role through a Marine Trail Safety Mandate, and will look to link the Discovery Islands into the larger proposed Inside Passage Marine Trail to ensure coastal connectivity optimized for safety for paddlecraft. Achieving this coast-wide connectivity and resolving issues with First Nations in the area to clarify opportunities and issues surrounding recreational use of their traditional territories will be the BCMT priorities for this region.
First Nations engagement includes establishing protocols and addressing cultural and archaeological issues within BCMT sites.
Work undertaken or underway as a result of this project already includes:
- A Nanwakolas-BCMT marine trail working group to establish visitor protocols with the six member First Nations;
- Creating a comprehensive Environmental Care Program that includes site environmental evaluations as well as ongoing impact evaluations to manage site sustainability;
- Creating a marine trail users Code of Conduct to regulate user behaviour; and
- The Marine Trail Safety Mandate stipulating BCMT objectives for marine trail safety and connectivity.
The goal is to ensure BC Marine Trails sites in the region are assessed for environmental and archaeological/cultural considerations and designed, managed and maintained to ensure long-term sustainability.
The BCMT’s ability to undertake these initiatives will be limited to BCMT sites only. This plan will therefore not address coastal recreation use overall and so many sites will remain unsanctioned, unassessed for conflicting values, unmanaged, unmaintained and user-created without regard for cultural or archaeological sensitivities. This is recognized as a regional issue.
The BCMT believes the current BCMT program of First Nations engagement, environmental assessments and optimized site planning could be of benefit to the entire region, and the BCMT extends the opportunity to work as a stakeholder with the region to address these larger issues through a comprehensive coastal recreation planning process, when that time comes.