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Pillaged of oldest park 'will continue'

By Nancy Brown
Times-Colonist staff
From the Times-Colonist. Victoria, BC. Wednesday February 11, 1987. p. B12.

Cream Lake, in the shadow of Strathcona Park's Mt. Septimus, will become a mine as part of the gutting of British Columbia's oldest park, say mountaineering and hiking spokesmen. "We can look forward to continued pillage of our park," said Jim Rutter, executive director of the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia, speaking to the Sierra Club in Victoria Tuesday night.

The lake, along with Della Falls, the highest waterfall in North America, is in the heart of a mine claim within the park. The area with its 396 mineral claims is being reclassified as a "recreation area" within the park - meaning that mining will be allowed, according to a provincial government announcement.

About 30,000 hectares of timbered land are to be removed from the park, established in 1911, and about 8,000 hectares added under a plan announced by environment minister Stephen Rogers last week.

"To be realistic," said Rutter, "Maybe the best we can hope for is a rearguard action which will have to be very pragmatic. We can fight this, but probably what we will end up with will be very close to what has been announced. The government is not willing to dissolve the mining claims or to look at paying the mining companies compensation. What we have to do is make sure the environmental impact will be as little as possible."

He said mining exploration should be done by helicopter with no roads being built at least until a decision has been made by the mining companies on the viability of the mines. He said there is a possibility that horizontal shafts could be run in from the present mines at the southern end of Buttle Lake instead of mines being sunk in the middle of the Alpine areas.

Warrick Whitehead, president of the Cowichan group of the Sierra Club agreed that the government is unlikely to change its mind about the mines or the deletions. However, he said, outdoor groups should fight to have more land added to the park to replace that which is being deleted. His group has worked on a plan and identified several areas, especially along the eastern boundary of the park which would enhance the park and improve access especially to Comox Glacier.

He said the hydroelectric dam at the head of Buttle Lake should be removed and the lake be allowed to go back to its natural level. "We should go as a unified group to government and give them some alternatives to what has been done here. We can still end up with a good park, but we will have to compromise," he said. "We can't keep everything. We can't stop the mining companies, they are away too powerful. They have had leases for too long, and the government doesn't stand on our side." The only hope left is that the mineral resource will prove to be too difficult and too expensive to mine, and the claims will be relinquished, said Warrick.

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