Friends of Stillwater Bluffs Association (FOSBA) plans to keep the pressure on qathet Regional District in its efforts to protect Stillwater Bluffs from logging and subdivision by Island Timberlands (IT), and have the property designated a regional park.
The community listed Stillwater Bluffs as one of the district’s top six sites for protection in the 2010 Parks and Greenspace plan.
“Stillwater Bluffs was one of the priorities identified back in the plan but there were others as well,” said qathet regional board chair Patrick Prabazon. “The biggest problem with Stillwater Bluffs is it's all owned by Island Timberlands. It's up to them to decide what they want to do with the property. I certainly would love to get involved if they ever make up their minds but they're not making up their minds.”
Island Timberlands owns the 48-hectare parcel of land that includes Stillwater Bluffs, as well as adjacent industrial lands around Stillwater Bay, including Olympic Forest Products log sort.
For the past 12 years, IT has had a proposal in the works to subdivide the industrial lands. For various reasons the proposal has stalled, including the need to provide foreshore access.
At the FOSBA annual general meeting on January 27, president Abby McLennan said the ministry of transportation and infrastructure (MOTI) was working with IT to establish the foreshore access. However, the road currently proposed by Island Timberlands is not accessible until the log sort ceases to exist, said McLennan.
“They've been trying to subdivide that parcel of land since 2007 and more seriously since 2012 up to present day,” she said. “A number of issues have held up that process, one being needing to find potable water and removing some land from the Agricultural Land Reserve for driveway access onto part of the parcel.”
According to regional district director of planning, Laura Roddan, MOTI is the approving authority for subdivision in all rural areas of BC. When MOTI issues a Preliminary Layout Approval (PLA) for subdivision it contains a list of conditions that must be met by the property owner in order to achieve final approval.
“For this particular subdivision, public beach access was one of several conditions set out in the PLA,” said Roddan. “Negotiations for beach access, and any other conditions of the PLA, are entirely between the property owner and MOTI.”
FOSBA is interested in this foreshore access because it could allow future official access to the Stillwater Bluffs parcel.
In November 2018, the regional district approved its support for the ministry to allow a public access road to the Stillwater Bay foreshore. The condition stipulated by the regional district was for the ministry to acquire an additional road dedication for a parking lot for visitors to the area south of Powell River.
“If we are going to save the Stillwater Bluffs, then have that be an official regional park, we're going to need parking so this is a great time to address that,” said McLennan. FOSBA wants the regional district to enact the parkland acquisition strategy, she added.
Over the course of 2018 McLennan said the amount of visitors to the Stillwater Bluffs has increased from 2017.
“We're seeing the parking [area] full and cars having to park on the road blocking access for emergency services vehicles and sometimes for the residents that live there,” said McLennan.
Conservationists and outdoor recreation advocates have long pushed for the purchase of the land to protect the area. FOSBA is raising funds to leverage grants and other sources for a possible purchase of the property in the future.
“I would love to see it as a regional park but I have no idea where we would come up with that kind of money,” said Brabazon.
The bluffs are home to some of the best quality sea cliff rock climbing in BC and more people are discovering it, along with other climbing areas in the Powell River region, as a destination for the sport. Local residents also use the trails and beach for recreation.
The Peak attempted to contact Island Timberlands but has received no reply.