Park deal a step closer for Quadra Island

A new provincial park on Quadra Island is one step closer to reality after an American forest company has tentatively agreed to sell a chunk of waterfront land to the B.C. government.

Merrill & Ring, a forestry company based in Portland, Ore., said it has reviewed offers for 395 hectares of waterfront land it owns on Quadra Island and decided to enter into a sales agreement with the government.

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The deal would preserve the land as a provincial park, linking it with Octopus Islands and Small Inlet provincial parks to form one large protected area.

“We think the sale in this manner, and to the government, is an appropriate thing to do,” said Norm Schaaf, vice-president of Merrill & Ring’s Timberland branch.

The cash deal is for “slightly less” than $6 million, and includes a donation from Merrill & Ring toward the purchase price, Schaaf said.

The government has to satisfy at least one outstanding condition by the end of September to close the agreement, he said. “I have good confidence that they are working their end of it very hard.”

The Ministry of Environment swept in with a last-minute bid in early August to try to acquire the land to prevent it from being logged or developed. Days earlier, Environment Minister Mary Polak had said her ministry needed to find $2 million to afford the purchase.

Quadra Island’s 3,000 residents had raised $200,000 toward the purchase, with the local regional government adding $100,000 and the B.C. Marine Parks Forever Society contributing an additional $200,000.

“It’s an absolute win-win for everybody if this goes ahead,” said Jim Abram, Quadra Island’s regional director.

It would be contentious for Merrill & Ring to try to log the land, but the company will be seen as a “good-hearted, good corporate citizen” if the park deal goes through, Abram said.

North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena praised the agreement.

“Absolutely, it’s good news,” she said.

“The fact they have decided they are going to go with the province is excellent news for the community.”

Trevena praised Polak and the Environment Ministry for “extraordinarily diligent” work in getting to a deal.

The government had a conditional agreement to buy the land in 2012, but missed a series of deadlines to finalize the deal.

“I don’t expect we’re going to run into that roadblock this time,” Schaaf said.

Trevena agreed.

“It’d be unlikely it will far apart now,” she said. “Everyone worked so hard to get to this stage.”

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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