Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

New Maxwell park: The good, the bad and the ugly

By PATRICIA DONNELLY AND ABRAHAM RUBEN

We are lucky enough to have a local government that thinks the acquisition of a new park is a priority.

With the assistance of generous landowners and concerned citizens they have recently acquired the new Mount Maxwell Community Park. It’s called a community park for two reasons. First, we already have an incredibly beautiful park called Mount Maxwell Provincial Park right next door. The second reason is because the word “community” gives the illusion of inclusiveness.

Unfortunately, this luck is tempered with cost. New parks mean more administrative, insurance and maintenance costs at a time when property taxes and rents are sky high. Many islanders must choose to live off-island because of housing costs.

The environmental cost of this venture must also be noted. PARC claims that it will be saving this wilderness by preventing development and by planting trees. Anyone who has walked through Mouat Park or hiked Mount Erskine will know that no amount of trees or trails will prevent humans from degrading land. Both areas are worn out by people and need renewal because of people. Every trail on the island is a dog walk and few things are more destructive than unleashed dogs in the woods. Every trail on the island has off-leash dogs no matter what signs are posted. Mountain bikes are also destructive. Those who ride off-trail leave tracks through the soft soil that cause erosion in the winter rains.

But the really ugly part of this beautiful park idea is the notion to put a trail head at the end of Wright Road. PARC wants to park horse trailers at the cul-de-sac. They want to make access to the new park easier through an existing right of way. There are some serious problems with this notion. Access to the cul-de-sac may be level (excluding the 20-foot drop to the start of the trail) but Wright Road is an over-used, under-serviced dirt road. The Cranberry Road that leads to it hasn’t been maintained properly for years. It’s a winding mountain road with many blind corners and too much traffic. The idea to send people up these roads for easier access is a mistake. Direct access to the park with a provided parking lot would be more sensible. If PARC wants people to park at parks, they should provide a parking lot. The cul-de-sac is a requirement for fire safety. The size of the turnaround is directly linked to the length of the dead-end road. While parking is permitted, it must remain clear for emergency vehicles. Taking away the cul-de-sac from emergency services would create a direct threat to our neighbourhood’s safety.

And that brings the story to the fire hazard created by people in the woods where there is no emergency access. Forest fires are a very real possibility. The rest of the province is looking for ways to mitigate forest fires while PARC is helping to create a new threat.

The Cranberry Valley has been a farming community for almost as long as there has been farming on Salt Spring. The proposition of increased traffic, fire hazard and dogs that are a threat to livestock are causing fear and anxiety in that community. We have a lifestyle that is not compatible with urban outdoor recreation. If PARC decides that it’s in our best interest to allow a trail head at the end of Wright Road, then I suggest that we bring our geese down to Centennial Park to pasture in the afternoons to demonstrate that incompatibility.

There doesn’t have to be an ugly part to this story. The park is a reality and will happen. But the trail head and trail from Wright Road can be prevented. The community up here will not benefit from it and will be put in danger from it.

Why not make lemonade and promote the use of the unmaintained Mount Maxwell park road as a hiking, trail running, mountain biking and horse riding trail. We could then skip the danger and expense of a Wright Road trail head and trail while offering an alternate access point to the community park through Mount Maxwell Provincial Park. PARC could save a bundle, not worry about fire insurance for the Wright Road trail and we could make use of the existing infrastructure.

The writers own Elderberry Farm on Wright Road.

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