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Community forest group one step closer to forest purchase

August 9, 2016

By: Comox Valley Record

Forty hectares have never looked so good.

At the end of June, the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS) took a huge leap forward in their goal of purchasing, protecting and restoring the Cumberland forest that borders the village.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op, the society was able to purchase the area known as Space Nugget from Hancock Timber Resource Group, and now it is focusing on three additional parcels of land as part of ‘Phase Two.’

“We knew we were close (to our goal), so we started our application fresh to MEC,” explained CCFS co-ordinator Meaghan Cursons. “They came in and helped us close the gap, and we did it all with no debt.”

In addition to the recreational opportunities the parcel offers, Cursons calls the purchase an opportunity to display the “high conservational values” of the important habitat. She says it’s about showcasing the ecological value of the Cumberland forest, as it combines recreational, cultural and conservational uses.

“Our community is interested in seeing a significant forest return to the commons.”

Tim Ennis, executive director of the Comox Valley Land Trust, agrees. He calls the purchase a legacy for future generations.

“This victory … is a huge success for the community, but is also relevant at the regional, provincial and global scale given the rarity of these natural habitats.”

Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird says this most recent purchase – complementing the society’s previous purchase of 72 hectares in 2005 – is “a wonderful asset to have. It’s leaving forest parkland for future generations.”

The village has a dedicated parks and outdoor recreation co-ordinator – Kevin McPhedran – who helps with maintenance of the land, of which ownership is transferred directly to the municipality.

Baird adds the village also works with UROC (United Riders of Cumberland mountain bike club) for trail maintenance and upgrades.

She admits it is an undertaking for the village, as the parcels are considered parks, and with any parks, there are costs associated with insurance and liabilities, but council approved the transfer to the village “without hesitation.”

“We support (CCFS) in any way we can. In addition to that, we also have a land access agreement with TimberWest and Hancock, which is the first on the Island, and allows users to legally use the trails. We can now be called a destination.”

Cursons agrees, and says it’s important the community feels ownership with the project.

“The fundraising with CCFS is not just about taking, it’s community economic development. It’s photographers, it’s musicians, it’s hikers, it’s mountain bikers who all use the trails and forest. It’s critical for all of us.”

To date, the CCFS has raised $1.2 million. An 11-person, volunteer board is looking to purchase an additional 60 hectares, which is made up of three parcels of forest, wetland, creek and riparian areas along Perseverance Creek.

The three ‘western parcels’ are known as Bronco’s Perseverance, China Creek and Perseverance Creek Japanese #1 Town.

The Cumberland forest is privately owned as part of the legacy of the E&N Land Transfer in the 1870s, which saw more than two million acres of land along the eastern side of Vancouver Island transfer into private hands in exchange for building a railway.

All of the unprotected Cumberland forest lands are slated to be logged.

The 72-hectare purchase in 2005 is forest connected to the Coal Creek Heritage Park.

The second phase of the project, known as ‘Project Perseverance,’ is not only focusing on fundraising, but highlighting the important habitat, culture and conservation of the forest, explained Cursons.

“That’s the focus going forward – educational programs, and the connection of a low impact in the forest along with kids and recreational users.”

While CCFS has $8,000 a month coming in through monthly donors, the goal for the parcel purchases is $2 million.

The society is preparing for a variety of not only fundraising events, but events that aid in creating community economic development, says Cursons.

“There are destination products, like the Home and Garden Tour, the Perseverance Trail Run and The Cumby (trail races).”

Additionally, CCFS is involved in the Foggy Mountain Fall Fair, happening in Cumberland Oct. 1. The CCFS regularly hosts fundraising trivia nights and this year will be offering an online auction (including a WestJet ticket raffle) from Oct. 23-29.

Cursons adds this year the society will also be hosting a Halloween Party at the Cumberland Recreation Centre around the same time as the Perseverance Run (set for Oct. 23).

For more info, to donate, or for events, visit cumberlandforest.com.

By: Comox Valley Record

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