On February 10, 2020, the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) posted a notice, on the Tideline, about the installation of new rails along the trail at Mansons Spit. They also invited local residents to a broom bash on the Spit, Saturday, March 28th, 10am- 1pm. According to Executive Director Helen Hall, FOCI started maintaining Cortes Island parks twenty years ago.
To Carry Out Stewardship
“Friends of Cortes Island has a remit to carry out stewardship work on the island. We undertake whole range of work, from marine stewardship to monitoring and caring for the lakes. We also maintain most of the Regional parks and trails, carry out Species at Risk projects and support the Cortes Island Streamkeepers. That’s one big side of our work, but we do a lot of environmental education too. We run a popular summer activities program and, throughout the year, run other activities including talks, walks and community work days such as beach clean-ups. In addition we support volunteers carrying out a range of activities from lake to marine monitoring. It is a great way for people to get involved in our work, have fun and learn about nature,” says Hall.
Involvement With Cortes Island Regional Parks
FOCI’s involvement with the island’s parks goes back to the years Kw’as Park came into being.
In a previous interview, former Regional Director George Sirk explained, “We got the park and Pierre de Trey and I surveyed all the trails, laid them out and I even worked on them for a little bit. Then we hired people to build those trails.”
Hall adds, “The setting up of Kw’as Park was a great piece of work by the communiy. Our first contract, with the Comox-Strathcona Regional District, was for maintaining Kw’as and Carrington Park and those contracts were renewed every year until 2007.”
The Comox (CVRD) and Strathcona Regional Districts (SRD) were created in 2008. FOCI’s contract is with the latter. They were soon looking after Gnat, Hayes, Moon and Seascape beach access trails. Siskin Forest Park and Whale’s Rest Park were added in 2014.
FOCI’s Parks Coordinators
“We are very lucky to have two great people working on the trails: Ryan Harvey and Alex Bernier, who do an outstanding job. The contract involves them walking every single trail at least once a month, and in the summer walking the beach accesses once a week, to pick up garbage, cut back vegetation and make sure the trails are in good shape. … In the winter we have issues with wind blown trees, which also need to be cleared. Occasionally we get a contract to do extra repair works in the park to replace bridges, steps and boardwalks, that have rotted.
“A couple of years ago we could see that a lot of boardwalks in Kw’as Park had really deteriorated over time, and the ladders had become dangerous. So we worked with the SRD, who managed to find some money, that allowed us to do a big upgrade in the park to install new boardwalks and ladders. Currently the SRD are looking into replacingSurge Bridge (in Kw’as park).”
“We also recently got a grant from the Community Forest to repair and refurbish the beautiful map entrance sign to Kw’as near the motel.”
Work On The Spit
FOCI started working in Mansons Landing Provincial Park in 2016. They were concerned about the Scotch broom, which had not been managed for a long time. FOCI was awarded a small BC Park’s grant and posted an invitation for the Cortes community to come out for “Broom and Muffins.”
“It was pretty amazing because we only had seven people turn up but actually managed to remove all the broom from the coastal sand ecosystem … Having done that, we recognized there was a lot of broom in the forested area too. Again in the same year …we held another broom bash, and this time 21 people turned up …and another huge pile of broom came out, and we managed to remove it from the entire Spit” said Hall.
When they returned, the following year, the broom bash was extended to the area around the lagoon.
FOCI’s broom bashes became an annual event.
Erosion on the Spit
“In 2018 we produced a report, about the coast sand ecosystem on the Spit …and held a presentation based around the report, which also highlighted some of the erosion issues …. One of the issues, that we could see was caused by people pressure … There were a lot of people getting down to the end of the Spit and then walking over the sides on to the beach, causing the banks to crumble and big shelves to form. So we applied for another grant and installed the split rail fencing that is still there today.”
On February 25, 2020, FOCI hosted a BC Park’s presentation on the erosion of Mansons Spit.
Parks & Trails Committee
There was an informal Parks and Trails committee on Cortes for years before Regional Director Noba Anderson approached FOCI to help formalize it; set up a terms of reference; Invite participants and provide administrative support. The new committee was formed in 2018.
The Parks and Trails committee meets every two or three months.
Hall explained, “Their priority at the moment is making sure the maintenance of existing parks and trails is good, and they are all in good shape. Repair works outside of our contract are needed, as is some additional signage. So they are looking at that and trying to liaise with the SRD and BC Parks to see what improvements can be made.”
She added they are also looking at updating the Cortes Island Trail map that we sell, and figuring out how trails that fall outside of the BC and SRD Parks management eg Green Mountain can be maintained
Top photo credit: Installing new rails along the trail at Masons Spit – Courtesy FOCI Facebook page