Letter to developer re: History of support for a park at Cape Roger Curtis

At the July 27, 2005 information meeting the developer’s consultant, Catherine Berris, surprised the audience by claiming that she was unaware of the public’s support for a park on the CRC lands. On behalf of the CRCTS, Director Jean Jamieson drafted a detailed letter to Ms Berris documenting the strong public support for CRC parkland dating all the way back to 1921. The letter is below.

August 22, 2005

Catherine Berris
Catherine Berris Associates Inc.
420-1639 West 2nd Street
Vancouver BC V6J 1H3

Dear Catherine Berris:

Re: A Large Park at Cape Roger Curtis

At the meeting of July 27th at Cates Hill Chapel, we learned that you were not aware of the strong community and regional desire to create a park on the Cape Roger Curtis lands. Evidence of this desire is hereby provided in the attached package for your consideration in the planning process. The binder contains copies of 67 letters and articles from individuals and organizations in support of a park at Cape Roger Curtis printed in the Undercurrent, our weekly Bowen newspaper, as well as 8 staff articles and one letter from Mr. Duntz. It is roughly in chronological order from December 13 2002 up to last week’s August 19 2005 issue. Also included are supportive articles published by other organizations and a few letters of support. We encourage you to read the material.

This letter also provides a brief historical summary highlighting other evidence of community and regional support for a park at Cape Roger Curtis.

As early as 1921 the Vancouver Natural History Society was recommending the preservation of the Cape. In 1991, “A submission on need for preservation of Cape Roger Curtis” by Beltz and Brink (quoted in the Environmental Task Force Report 1993&mdash’prepared for the OCP Review) says of the Cape “A unique, surviving natural shoreline ecosystem, quite likely the only one within the GVRD, possibly in the whole southern Gulf Islands” (page 37 of the ETF). This document goes on to list the number of bird, plant, reptile, amphibian, insect and forest species to be found in this rich environment. Terry Taylor’s unpublished list of plants of Cape Roger Curtis was one source.

An example of an important plant in the alder forest, slightly inland, is the stinging nettle. The medicinal use of this plant has been well known to First Nations for generations (Jamieson 1981) and is now considered “one of the most applicable plants we have” (Holistic Herbal, 1993). West Coast Painted Lady and Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterflies use nettles as nurseries for their larvae. Black Tailed Deer have their main winter habitat in the uplands above Cape Roger Curtis (Galindo, Leal and Domenici, 1992) and the Cape is an important part of the wildlife corridor between the uplands and the south shore.

A point that the Environmental Task Force makes is that it is important “to protect the scenic and natural values of the coastline as seen from shore, beach or boat” (p. 52). Boaters and kayakers will agree with this (see a letter from Martin Clarke, Oct.3/03, in binder).

In 1973, an International Joint Commission recognized the significance of the islands and waterways off the BC and Washington coasts; it advised that this area be protected as an international park. There was a marine park formed around the Gulf Islands but, unfortunately, Howe Sound was not included. As you know, the concern of the Joint Commission, and of many others, resulted in the formation of the Islands Trust, “to preserve and protect the Trust Area and its unique amenities and environment” (Trust Policy Statement, 1993). When Bowen Island wrote its OCP, it stated in the Parks Plan of Schedule C “at least one more large passive park is needed at the south end of the island.” Cape Roger Curtis is now the only large undeveloped parcel of land on the South Shore. The Bowen Island Green Zone Report (1992) calls for a marine sanctuary along this shore to protect habitat and species. There have been concerns voiced recently about the kelp beds and especially eel grass beds along the coast.

The Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society was formed in 2002. Since its inception, its members and Directors have worked tirelessly to try to save at least a part of the Cape as parkland. Usually, there have been meetings once a month but often bi-weekly. There have been fund-raisers, picnics, workshops, guest speakers and many, many letters. In fact, since 2003, a rough count of Undercurrent letters and poems, often passionately calling for the preservation of this area that is unique and valued, comes to at least fifty. This is a very high number for any issue on Bowen.
Local organizations which have supported the Society are:

  • Bowen Island Arts Council
  • Bowen Island Conservancy
  • Bowen Island Eco-Alliance
  • Bowen Island Forest and Water Management
  • Bowen Island Heritage Preservation Association
  • Bowen Island Horse Owners and Riders Association
  • Bowen Nature Club
  • Bowen Island Sea Kayaking
  • Bowen Island Trail Builders Association, Trails Committee
  • Centre for Spirituality and Sustainability
  • Seniors Keeping Young
  • The Land Conservancy
  • Xenia Creative Development Centre

In its first year, CRCTS raised $17,000 in donations and $12,000 in pledges, high for a community of under 3,000 people.

In March, 2004, Bowen Municipal Council passed a motion “That Council reaffirm its support for renewed efforts to acquire some or all of the Cape Roger Curtis lands for park; and that Council confirm their support for the Greenway / Island of Walks concept and Cape Roger Curtis as a key element in it.

Besides the letters from the community, many letters of support have been received from: Save Our Parkland Society, the North Shore Hikers, the Vancouver Natural History Society and individuals who have memories of weddings, engagements and spiritual experiences at the Cape. Mel Turner, retired BC Parks’ Planning Manager for the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, considers the whole area important and of high park values. Tom Bell, current Senior Planner for BC Provincial Parks, visited the land in October, 2004. He too recognized the uniqueness of this property and stated his department’s interest in seeing it saved from development. Terry Taylor, Botanist, supports its preservation. David Suzuki encourages the CRCTS in its efforts to preserve and protect.

Articles have been published in the following well-known nature magazines:

  • Discovery (a journal of natural history and conservation for British Columbia, published by the Vancouver Natural History Society)—article in the Spring issue “The Plants and Birds of Cape Roger Curtis<.cite>”;
  • Kingfisher (published by the Land Trust Alliance of BC)—article in the Winter, 2005 edition entitled “The Cape Crusaders Fight On“; and
  • Wingspan (published by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia)—feature article in the 2005 Winter/Spring edition “Onward Cape Crusaders“.

The above offers more evidence of the widespread interest in the Cape.

A petition in support of a park at Cape Roger Curtis was circulated in August of 2002, and close to 1,000 names were gathered and sent to Parks Canada. In August 27, 2004, after the property was sold, CRCTS wrote to the new owners to advise them of the community’s support for the creation of a park on the Cape Roger Curtis lands. The owners were also encouraged to reconsider an $8 million conservation donor offer, made by Mr. Doug Hooper and Mr. Ross McDonald, for the purchase of a portion of their property. This letter included a petition with 700 signatures endorsing the purchase, including several municipal Councillors.

Youth Literary Awards were recently given to winners of the contest “Cape Roger Curtis—So What?”, sponsored by the Bowen Island Arts Council and the CRCTS. This was to give our young people a chance to voice their concerns about losing a favourite area of the Island. To read their eloquent submissions, see the Undercurrent article of August 19, 2005 (in binder).

Community and regional interest has been and continues to be high. We hope that this package gives you some background, some evidence, and a clear impression of our continuing resolve to create a park at Cape Roger Curtis.

Yours sincerely,

Jean Jamieson on behalf of The Directors of the Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society:
Sue Ellen Fast, President, Ted Bentley, Marion Moore, Jan Wells, Peter Drake, Pam Dicer, Alison Roberts, Sharon Proske, Jean Jamieson

Cc: Mayor Lisa Barrett and Council, Bowen Island Municipality
Bowen Island Parks and Recreation Commission
Mr. Wolfgang Duntz, Cape Roger Curtis Joint Venture