Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Gospel According to HR MacMillan

49 degrees 17' 59" North
124 degrees 37' 0" West

When I was a kid my Dad used to pile us all in the Studebaker and we'd head off camping for 20 or 30 days every summer.

Those were great days indeed, and we spent almost all of them in British Columbia's Provincial Parks,which cost us a paltry $2.00 per day.

Truth be told, that was really all we could afford.

Now wait just a minute you might be saying to yourself, particularly if you are of a certain politcal stripe.....he said 'Studebaker', right? So this doesn't make sense, because all of this car-camping must have occurred way back in the past, before the Socialist Hordes took over and gave everything away, cheap, to all comers.

There is only one problem with that kind of waterheaded thinking.

It was not the Hordes that built British Columbia's Provincial Parks, or our Public Ferry system, or even our BC Hydro for that matter.

Instead, it was none other than that notorious free-enterpriser himself W.A.C. Bennett, who once said,"the finest sound in the land is the ringing of cash registers".

Now, I will leave it to others who have considerably more politico-historical mojo than I to explain how the original Socred Manifesto was bent out of shape by the Wacky One after he brought it over the Rockies and started hammering the crap out of it in his Hardware store in Kelowna in the early '50s.

Because, at least for this screed, the whys and the wherefores are not important.

What is important is that Mr. Bennett did these things. And they were good.


Last week my wife went online and booked a campsite for the August long weekend at a Provincial Campground on the Sunshine Coast. The cost was $20 dollars per day for the site, $6 for the reservation fee and $10 for an extra car (I have to work Friday and thus will come up with another family on the Saturday).

That makes $36.00 per night or $118.00 for the weekend which is more than twice what it cost my Dad and his wife and his three kids (me and my two brothers) for an entire four week holiday in 1971.

Ya, I know inflation, cost of living, relative earning multiples....blah, blah, blah.

But, then again, think of it this way: my Dad worked on a towboat all his adult life and we were always a working class family, which is why we were travelling in a 1963 Studebaker in 1971. But the cost of going camping was never an issue. In fact, at two bucks a night we could have camped from the day school got out in June until it started again in September and the cost of a campsite still wouldn't have been an issue.

But let's take a working class family now. Let's say they want to take a big trip around the province camping for 4 weeks this summer. The price of the campsites alone would run them somewhere in the vicinity of 700 bucks. You think that might not give them pause, perhaps even enough to consider Disneyland instead?

And don't even get me started on the lack of services, the deterioration of the infrastructure, and the dearth of nature programs now compared to that which greeted you when you entered a Provincial Park a generation ago.


So what the hell has happened?

Well, for one thing, of all the province's 'assets' the Parks may be the ones that have gone the furthest down the Dual tracks to Destruction known as P3 (private/public/partnerships) and Cost Recovery.

Clearly, the people who, as Frank Capra once put it, do most of the 'living and working and dying' in this province have lost control. And this is a theme I will return to from a 'big picture' point of view in the coming months.....but for now I want to talk about a small story in a small place almost smack dab in the middle of Vancouver Island.

It's called Cathedral Grove, which is a postage stamp of less than 200 hectares located along Cameron Lake about halfway between Parksville and Port Alberni on Highway 4, which is the main road to Tofino.

The park has one of the last easily accessible stands of old growth Douglas Fir anywhere and it was bequeathed to the Province by non-other than that old forest raper himself, HR Macmillan, who, I'm guessing, was probably great friends with Wacky Bennett.


One of the places we liked to camp when I was a kid was Englishmen's River Falls, a provincial campsite located at the foot of Mt. Arrowsmith at the end of Cameron Lake a few miles east of Cathedral Grove.

It goes without saying that the Grove is a magical place. And when I was 12 years old it could entice my brothers and me into doing crazy Tommy Thompson-like stuff that included bushwacking down from the Mount Arrowsmith trail or fording the Cameron River looking for Roosevelt Elk on our way to the Big Trees.

Oh sure, you could then, and still can, take the easy way into 'Canopy of Giants' by parking your car along the side of the road along a windy portion of highway 4 that runs through the heart of the park.

And this, of course, causes some congestion along the stretch of two lane highway that winds its way towards Port Alberni, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park on the West Coast of the Island.

Which is why, if you were to take the current Provincial Government's argument at face value, the proposed construction of a new parking lot in the name of safety is a good thing.

And if you are convinced that building such a parking lot is the right thing it becomes very easy to dismiss the 'eco-freaks' that have barricaded themselves in the trees to defy the bulldozers as crackpots.

Except that some folks, including one of the few mainstream journos in this Province with any spine, Stephen Hume, have been bold enough to take take a peek behind the Government's Curtain of Spurious Spin and have started asking questions like.....

1) Why is the paved parking lot so darned big (ie. protestors have claimed that it will hold 150 cars and 20 buses)?...... Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection's response: It's not big at all because..... 'it is only designed for 140 cars and 15 buses.'

2) Why is the lot being built in a stand of mature second growth forest right next to the Grove, the destruction of which will facilitate blowdowns from the wind that whistles through the adjacent clear-cut?...... The Ministry of Protection's response.....'studies by Dr. Steven Mitchell of UBC and Madrone Consulting have concluded that there will be not be increased blowdown'.....This all sounds very plausible except for one small thing..... here is what Dr. Mitchell actually said in the conclusion of his original report:

"...In a small park such as MacMillan Park (Cathedral Grove), situated on a major travel corridor near expanding populations, with high visitor use, influence of human activities is inevitable. These effects can be mitigated to some degree through application of our growing knowledge of ecosystem function, and through long term cooperative planning....."

Clearly, the work of a careful academic, but it is hardly the ringing endorsement that our Spinners from the Ministry of Protection make it out to be.

3) Why has there been no public review or input into the process?.....Ministry of Protection response: "consultation and study have been going on for 12 years......" This is a classic propaganda ploy - spew out an answer that seems logical but is actually completely illogical (ie. internal consultation = public review). This double-speak is actually reinforced by an internally commissioned consultant's report from Blood and Associates that cites two, and only two, previous studies, both of which were carried out guessed it....Blood and Associates.

While there are many other examples of double-speak pertaining to this issue, those three points alone are enough to make you wonder if we are actually building a massive parking lot that will hasten the Grove's demise and if so, why?

Well, given the fact that the football field full of pavement will also be stuffed to the gills with Parking Meters, could it be that revenue generation/cost recovery is one of the driving forces behind this initiative? The former chief Gauliter of the Ministry of Protection, Joyce Murray, had a double-speak answer for this as well (all of this stuff can be found as pdf files at the site linked to above)

"..... parking at Cathedral Grove will indeed be metered. Last year, 27 Provincial Parks on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland introduced day-use parking fees...."

Personally, I feel that 2+2=5 responses like this are actually more of an indictment than a justification.

And here's Dad and his Dad before him eeked out working class existences in the forest industry doing the shit jobs that made people like HR MacMillan and his kind rich. And now the conning-neos currently in control are doing their damndest to try and convince us that we should be glad that we are being forced to pay for the privilege of visiting the bone that was thrown our way as payment for being royally screwed throughout both of their lifetimes?

To put it another way, does anybody really think that the SuperRich would put up with paying a parking fee to tie their float planes up at the dock when they fly into a secluded SuperNatural British Columbia spot like, oh say, Great Central Lake, which is located in the still pristine wilderness just a few kilometers away, and a world removed, from the public highway that runs through Cathedral Grove?

Of course not.

Update, 2020: These days folks in the know are more worried about the effects that, surprise!, nearby logging is having on Cathedral Grove.


1 comment:

NVG said...

Ahhhh Englishmen's River Falls, yeah, I remember that, with the 3rd Riverview Scout Troop cycling to the West Coast, which I mentioned in an earlier post of yours. We started out from 49th and Knight Road to the first sailing of the CPR ferry in downtown Vancouver...... (which reminds me, a note to Christy: I cycled through the red light at 49th and Fraser, no cars were around, and I got reamed out by the Scout Leader over something about being a poor example to others) and yes our troop spent a night at Englishmen's River Falls, way off the highway, in other words, going in the wrong direction for the next day outing. But it certainly was quiet.

BTW, I've really been enjoying your early writings (7,163 posts) especially the ones with the precise gps coordinates like 49 degrees 17' 59" North 124 degrees 37' 0" West, makes me think that its a special place for the family to go fishing. insert this 49 17 59, -124 37 0