A place worth fighting for

Logging and real estate development threaten Stillwater Bluffs. A growing number of the bluffs’ “friends” are committed to preserving it.

By David Harris, Originally published on qathet Living

Moving across town can be stressful. Moving to a completely new town can be even more stressful. Add in that the new town is two ferries away from anywhere, and that you picked it because of its natural beauty and access to wilderness rather than because you actually knew anyone there, and the potential stress can reach Guinness-Book-of-Records levels.

But sometimes Fortune smiles on the foolish as well as on the brave. In my case, Fortune’s smile was the opening of a climbing gym in Powell River on almost the same winter day I parked the U-Haul truck in my new driveway, and my wife and I were soon welcomed into the local climbing community.

And not long after winter turned to spring, one of my new friends said “Hey, let’s go to the Bluffs tomorrow!”

“Bluffs?”

“Yeah, Stillwater Bluffs. Great sea-cliff climbing.”

It turned out to be a lot more than just sea-cliff climbing, and four years later I am a committed lover of “the Bluffs”, but worried that this wonderful place could easily be lost forever.

So, what is this Stillwater Bluffs place? And how could it be lost?
“Bluffs” are small cliffs, and yes, there are some cliffs, but there is much, much, more; and climbing by the sea is just the smallest part of this magical place.

Stillwater Bluffs, about 15 km southeast of Powell River, is 118 acres of beautiful forest overlooking the Salish Sea on BC’s spectacular Sunshine Coast, with hiking trails among huge old Firs and Cedars, a quiet pebble beach, stunning sea cliffs, rare ecosystems, and grand viewpoints.
Most people, when they walk among the big trees, or scramble down to the rocky shoreline, assume they are in a Provincial or Regional Park. A place they can return to whenever they need to escape the trials of daily life and discover the joy and peace offered by the world outside of cities and malls and jobs.

But Stillwater Bluffs is not a protected park! You could head to the Bluffs tomorrow and find a locked gate.

Stillwater Bluffs is owned by Island Timberlands and managed by Mosaic Forest Management. Their business is logging. They could log Stillwater Bluffs at any time or sell it to a real estate developer.

The fear of losing something precious and irreplaceable led a few local residents (notably longtime environmental advocate, the late David Moore), to band together in 2003 to look for a way to protect the Bluffs, soon taking the name Friends of Stillwater Bluffs Association (FOSBA).
The approach to conservation was much different in 2003 than it is today, but the grit and creativity of the early FOSBA members laid the groundwork for the possibility of gaining permanent protection for Stillwater Bluffs.

But the battle to gain that protection is not over. It will continue until a way is found to keep the trees standing, to ensure that the Bluffs are permanently preserved for us, for our children, and for their children. That is why I joined FOSBA, and why I am now proud to serve as one of its directors.

In recent years we have seen some amazing land-preservation stories from across the province. With continued hard work, the saving of Stillwater Bluffs could be one of those stories. FOSBA has taken the lead in writing that story, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help.

An arbutus tree and northern alligator lizard at the Bluffs – Photos by Jason Addy

How can you help?

The Friends of Stillwater Bluffs Association is a registered non-profit society whose mission is to see the Bluffs permanently protected through the purchase of the land by an entity that will ensure that this beautiful place will not be logged or developed as real estate, and that the public access to it will be preserved for future generations.

There are many ways you can help us achieve this goal.

Visit the Bluffs (map and directions on our website at fosba.org). Tread lightly, stay on the trails, and pack out what you pack in.

Learn more about FOSBA. There is a timeline of the history of Stillwater Bluffs, and of FOSBA’s work to preserve it, on our website.

Watch our short video. It’s on the website, or you can watch it on Youtube (just search for “save Stillwater Bluffs”).

Join FOSBA. It’s easy – go to fosba.org and click on “Get Involved”
Donate to our acquisition fund. You can read more about this on the website, and donations over $20 receive a charitable tax credit.

Attend our Annual General Meeting at 7 pm on February 23 at the Brooks Secondary School Library.

Top image credit: stunted Douglas-fir on Moss Mountain Photo by Jason Addy

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