The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) board is hoping to open a resort-wide conversation on how and who should help maintain the network of roads running through the 33,000-hectare forest.
Tom Cole, operations forester for the CCF, is working on a coordinated management plan that would identify possible efficiencies in road use among the various parties with interests in the forest — both industrial and recreational. The effort stemmed from the provincial government approaching the CCF board recently to say there are several forest service roads under its jurisdiction that no longer meet its funding requirements. The board is now being given the option to determine which roads it wishes to maintain on its own, or have them decommissioned.
"Because we're the only tenure holder in the area, road management is sort of going to fall in our laps," Cole said.
There are several groups with stakes in the forest; BC Hydro, for example, needs to access power lines in the area, while recreation providers like The Adventure Group (TAG) run tours through the CCF.
"We found there were lots of activities and uses on the road that would just benefit from having all the different stakeholders talk to each other more," explained Councillor Sue Maxwell, who also serves on the CCF board. "So while it's not necessarily the responsibility of the community forest to develop a whole broad action management plan, it does make sense for us to understand what roads are important to the community, which roads are important to the community forest, and to have some system for prioritizing which ones to maintain or not."
Another benefit to collaborating would be to cut down on the CCF's operational costs, the idea being that stakeholders would take on some road maintenance as part of the regular mandate. In fact, as part of Cole's outreach to various groups, TAG agreed, "in the spirit of collaboration," to incorporate some basic maintenance on the Soo River Forest Service Road into its recent snow-clearing efforts, according to operations director Graham Aldcroft.
"If you're already bringing the machinery in, and two different parties are willing to spend some money on it, it would make sense to coordinate that, cut back on some of the costs, and achieve more together," added Maxwell.
An example that was floated at a CCF open house on Monday, June 5, was in the Jane Lakes area, which foresters expect to get close to as part of logging activities in the next two to three years, Cole said.
"I just wanted to look for a visioning exercise because there aren't many places with that many visitors, and that many wishes for water access on those hot days, where we have three lakes in close proximity. Can we manage them differently? I'm just asking all those questions and want to take it to task," he added.
Some open-house attendees raised the concern of turning Jane Lakes into "another Loggers Lake situation," where an increase in visitors has damaged the foreshore. The consideration of the potential impact on the area is "exactly why we should be discussing it before we even get in there," Cole said. "Because if we get there and people start going there, we'll never be able to lock it up and tell them they can't go."