Island park damaged in storm could partially reopen in May

Despite the havoc caused in forested areas by last December’s powerful windstorm, Little Qualicum Falls is the lone provincial park still closed in the aftermath.

The goal is to have at least a portion of the 440-hectare park opened for the May long weekend.

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“However, because safety is our top priority, this cannot be guaranteed while we are still in the midst of assessment and cleanup,” B.C. Parks said in a statement.

The park is popular with families and features waterfalls and a rocky gorge, as well as walking trails. B.C. Parks said the “unprecedented blowdown storm” decimated the park, home to a 96-site campground — requiring a lot of time and money to assess the damage and work toward a reopening.

“As the recovery work is still underway, we cannot yet know the final costs,” B.C. Parks said. “We are fortunate that there was little capital infrastructure damage. However, the sheer number of fallen and damaged trees has created an unsafe environment.

“We currently have a contractor removing the downed trees from the campgrounds and day-use area, and once this work is completed, we will be able to undertake the repairs of trails, roads, campsites, safety fencing and washroom facilities.”

Heavy machinery is being used.

Meanwhile, five recreation sites in the Campbell Lake area, west of Campbell River, that are currently free have been upgraded to provide better camping facilities. That means a $15 per night fee will come into effect May 15.

The five sites are Dogwood Bay, Loon Bay, Apple Point, Brewster Camp and Gray Lake in the Sayward Forest. The sites will be maintained more often and be regularly visited by a host.

The Brewster Lake, Campbell Lake and Orchard Meadow sites north of Campbell Lake are already fee-for-service locations.

The changes follow a demand for more certainty about campsite availability, but a large number of free sites will continue to be offered in the vicinity.

To book a provincial campsite, visit the Discover Camping website at discovercamping.ca.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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