A picturesque pebble and sand beach, flanked by arbutus trees and evergreens, with remnants of an old fish-oil plant, is one of four new parcels of land added to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve on Friday.
The additions Roesland Extension and Shingle Bay on North Pender Island, Maple Bay on Prevost Island and the Saturna Island Extension expanded the fragmented park by more than 100 hectares, costing Parks Canada $6.3 million.
Parks Canada was hit with a $29.2-million budget cut earlier this year, but funds to buy these parcels were put aside when the park was created almost a decade ago, said park superintendent Wayne Bourque.
We had money set aside at that time for land acquisition, Bourque said, adding, Theres probably a couple of million left in that budget.
Three of the parcels were bought from private owners. The Saturna Island site was transferred to Parks Canada from Environment Canada at no cost. Environment Canadas Georgia Basin air quality and climate monitoring will continue at the site.
Even though the parcels were bought at fair market value, the owners kept their prices reasonable, Bourque said. The owners are happy to see theres a legacy they are leaving and the areas will remain undeveloped, he said.
At the Roesland site, which was bought for $2.5 million, the purchase includes a life tenancy for former owner David Mather.
The new parcels, a mix of waterfront and forested areas including more than 2,700 metres of shoreline, will help act as glue for some of the existing park areas, which are spread over about 15 islands and islets, Bourque said.
Its a highly fragmented park, so being able to buy these properties is really going to make a difference to us and the way we manage the ecological integrity of the park over time, he said.
That includes protection for the rare Garry oak ecosystem found on the islands, he said.
The expansion will also mean development of new hiking trails, day-use areas and camping sites.
The acquisitions were announced by Calgary MP Michelle Rempel, parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Peter Kent.
Nature is something that binds us together as Canadians, she said. This is important progress in increasing protection for B.C.s beautiful Gulf Islands.
Consultation is continuing on boundaries for the proposed Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area, but it is not known when that will be completed, Rempel said.
The proposed conservation area will stretch over a larger area of the Salish Sea, including the park.
Out on the water, as Parks Canada showed off their new acquisitions, mist- shrouded Prevost Island and the lighthouse, where lichen-covered rocks rise up from sheltered bays.
Nearby, at Shingle Bay, visitors can see the remains of a pier and the Shingle Bay fish-reduction plant that produced oil and fertilizer intermittently from 1927 to 1959, when the plant burned down.
It is hoped the site will help visitors learn a little about the West Coast fishing industry and the economic role it played in island communities, said Parks Canada spokeswoman Laura Judson.
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