The wetlands of Pemberton's Fulton property officially opened this week.
An intimate setting greeted the roughly 25 visitors at the official ribbon cutting ceremony at the Fulton property wetlands just north of Pemberton on Monday evening.
Local acoustic duo Tom Mckoy and Dawn Walsh played and sang while visitors arrived at the ceremony via the complimentary shuttle, by bike, on foot or on horseback. Not even the rampant mosquitoes could detract from the natural riparian beauty surrounding the ceremony.
Mary-Eline James from the Lil'wat Nation gave the opening blessings, thanking all in attendance for honouring the protocols of Lil'wat people and sang a traditional song hoping for the safety and enjoyment of all those who will use this land.
"I'm happy to hear there will be no changes," said James. "The unborn have not seen it yet and it's important that they see what we see, in our lands and in our territories."
Susie Gimse, chair of the SLRD board stood atop a small mound of dirt, used as a makeshift podium for the speeches.
"About two years ago, Alan McEwan from the Pemberton Wildlife Association gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to go for a walk," she explained telling those at the opening that that was how she was introduced to the rich flora and fauna found in the Fulton wetlands, one of the few riparian areas in the Pemberton Valley untouched by agriculture or logging.
"He must have named off about 30 different species of birds that I otherwise would not have known," said Gimse of her first tour of the property.
The unique ecology of this forested floodplain is at the root of why the community has placed such a high moral value in protecting it — a notion carried on through generations of the Fulton family.
"We really impacted the land very little ourselves over 50 years," said Barbara Fulton as she addressed the visitors from atop the mound.
"It was always in our minds that the property, especially the wetlands, should be conserved. We knew there was strong local support and we knew there was an excellent relationship with the SLRD and the non-profit sector. That wide and deep support for environmental conservation convinced us to move ahead. Our family had many happy times here and we hope that many other families in the future will be able to enjoy this lovely place."
Other speakers included Marian Adair from the Nature Trust of British Columbia and Brad Arner, Manager of Provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada, both representing the non-profit interests that helped with the funding of the purchase of the property.
"Most of this came from our grassroots fund raising events that we have, individual gifts and donations," said Arner in an interview after the ribbon cutting.
"With the wetlands, the flood plain forest around it and the adjacent hillside here it puts a nice package together from a biodiversity perspective."
Ducks Unlimited shouldered 64 per cent of the $430,000 purchase price for the 27.1 hectare (67-acre) property, the remainder was shared between the SLRD (24 per cent) and the Nature Trust (12 per cent).
Now that the property has been officially opened, the development planning process will be moving forward with focus on non-motorized access. The access road is still public (though unmaintained) and private properties still rely on it for vehicle access, but off the road the plan is to keep the trails for nature hikes and interpretive tours during the summer and nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
"We've invited the Mt Currie (Band) to be a part of the management process because of the value they place on this area," said Gimse.
"There's opportunity for cultural, educational and interpretive experiences. We now have to embark on a management planning process...to ensure that the wildlife habitat and recreational use continue to co-exist."
The purchase of the Fulton property has also improved access to the Riverside Nature Park Crown Area, which was denied tenure to the SLRD in 2002 due to access issues.
"Having the access to this land certainly does increase our ability to obtain (Riverside Park) for community use as we move forward," said Gimse.
— With files from Cathryn Atkinson