Mt. Arrowsmith was declared a regional park in November 2008, thanks to the hard work of residents in the area, the FMCBC, the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Vancouver Island Section, the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Hupacasath First Nation. The history of Mt. Arrowsmith along with a map and a brochure are attached at the bottom of this page.
Here is the story of how the spectacular Mt. Arrowsmith massif obtained park status, written by Peter Rothermel for the ACC Vancouver Island Section’s annual journal:
Mt. Arrowsmith: A Dream Come True
by Peter Rothermel
For nearly a century, there has been public interest in making Mt Arrowsmith a protected park, yet governments have all been slow to respond.
In 1912, a Victoria Times Colonist news article stated, “If one were to go into the fastness of Vancouver Island and found a great deposit of coal or ore, the discovery would be hailed as a real achievement of tremendous benefit to this section of British Columbia, and as another big addition to it’s assets. By the same process of reasoning, when one considers the benefits accruing from tourist travel, it will have to be admitted that the ‘discovery’ of Mt. Arrowsmith is also a great achievement and that it will prove an asset of incalculable value.”
My own involvement in trying to get Mt Arrowsmith park status was born in 1996, out of outrage over a ski developer, in a public park, wanting to restrict public access to the, now defunct, ski area on the north slopes of Mt Cokely, a subsidiary peak within the Arrowsmith Massif. While not on Mt Arrowsmith proper, the ski operation was in a regional park, of about 600 hectares and is known as Mt Arrowsmith Regional Ski Park. Working with a grass roots group, the Public Access Resolution Committee (PARC), to keep unfettered public access into the ski park, people would often ask, “If the summit of Arrowsmith isn’t in the park, what is it’s status?” and then ask “Why isn’t it a park?” Questions I couldn’t answer, at the time, but ones I wanted answered for myself.
Block 1380, which encompasses the peaks of Mt Arrowsmith and Mt Cokely, was Crown Forest Reserve and in researching it’s past I would come to learn of it’s rich and long history, with much information coming from Lindsay Elms. In getting to know this mountain better, I would come to climb it’s many aspects and routes and in every season, with a number of friends. I would spend so much time on it’s slopes that I would come to refer to it as “my mountain”, not so much as me claiming ownership, but maybe more so of the mountain having an ownership over me.
Looking for help, I targeted about a dozen clubs and organizations for their support. Along the way, I made many friends and joined a few organizations, including the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) and eventually would become a Director for the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC.
With over thirty five letters of clubs and society’s support, we first went to the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), looking for help to obtain Provincial Park status, with me giving very nervous presentations and their Board of Directors voting in favour. The RDN took our request to the Province, but were denied due to “lack of funding”. The Province suggested we try for Regional Park status and intimated that we would get support from them.
In these early days of the campaign, before computers and e-mail use was common, we relied on faxing, photocopying, long distance phoning and snail mail. The costs were high and with encouragement from, our then Section President, Claire Ebendinger, I applied for a grant from the National ACC and received monetary help that was greatly needed to defray costs. After several years of letter writing and much work by the RDN parks staff, Jeff Ainge and David Speed, we were just hitting brick walls and not getting letters returned from the Province. Our efforts were starting to stagnate a bit.
Then in 2004, ACC member Don Cameron and I teamed up, with a committee of advisors from various Island clubs, including Sandy Briggs, Martin Hofmann, Judy & Harold Carlson, Harriet Rueggeberg, Cedric Zala and Evan Loveless. With Don’s excellent power point presentation skills, we gave presentations to The Regional District of Nanaimo Board of Directors and the Alberni/Clayoquot Regional District Board of Directors and we met with several area MLAs, Leonard Krog, Scott Fraser and Ron Cantelon. To further public interest and with Don’s skills, we created a web site. We also designed and printed a colour brochure, with financial help from Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and distributed it where ever we could. I led trips up Arrowsmith’s easier summer routes, taking area MLA Scott Fraser, RDN Chair Joe Stanhope, Qualicum Beach Mayor Tuenis Westbroke, among other political persons and a bevy of reporters, in order to get news coverage and public awareness. As well, I developed a four part slide show with Arrowsmith’s History, flora & fauna, physical aspects and recreation values represented and brought it to numerous clubs & societies.
Every year we seemed to be slowly getting closer to our goal of obtaining some kind of protected park status. With two new RDN Parks Staff, Tom Osborne and Wendy Marshal and all of the RDN Parks & Trails Committee, we had a good group pulling for us. Once again we sought for Provincial Park Status and went through the motions to the point of having Senior Staff from the Ministry of Environment recommend that we get Provincial Park Status, with the RDN taking on the management and the area clubs being the trail stewards. We went as far as to do a LEAF evaluation (Land Evaluation Acquisition Framework) which is one of the last steps in gaining BC Provincial Park Status. Ministry Staff recommended a Provincial Park, managed (paid for) by the RDN and stewarded by Island clubs. In other words the Province would not have borne any costs, but could reap huge kudos. When it reached the Minister of Environment, for some unfathomable reason he rejected the proposal. It might have been because Arrowsmith is in an opposition riding.
With the help of RDN Chair Joe Stanhope and Qualicum Mayor Tuenis Westbroke, in convincing the Minister of Environment to support us regionally, we finally got Minister of Environment, Barry Penner and Minister of Community Services, Ida Chong, to act as sponsoring Ministries and had our foot in the door. After arriving with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hupacasath First Nations, we were awarded Nominal Rent Tenure of a dollar for thirty years, from the Province for the new Mt. Arrowsmith Massif Regional Park. At the RDN Board of Directors meeting, November 25, 2008, the vote was unanimous and the new park was declared. Our Section Chair, Cedric Zala, gave a thank you speech and I showed a short slide show of Arrowsmith’s beauty. I donated to the RDN Chair a twoonie, enough to cover the rent tenure for sixty years.
The new park is about 1,300 hectares in size and will take in the summits of Mt Arrowsmith, Mt Cokely, and the South Summit (unofficial name). As well, it will encompass the high mountain lakes of Fishtail, Hidden, Jewel and Lost (last two unofficial names). It will protect several popular trails, including the Judges Route, Saddle Route and the Upper Rosseau Trail.
Mt Arrowsmith is the apex of a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, encompassing the Little Qualicum and Englishman River’s watersheds and is now on the world stage. From the peak of Arrowsmith, down to Cameron Lake and following the Little Qualicum River to the Straits of Georgia, much of this area is either Provincial or Regional Park lands, with several small gaps. An eventual goal is to see one continuous wildlife & recreational corridor, of protected parkland, from the summit of Mt Arrowsmith to the mouth of the Little Qualicum River… An alpine to tidewater protected park.
The new Mt Arrowsmith Park culminates over a decade of work by the Alpine Club of Canada and the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC, lobbying for protected park status for the Arrowsmith Massif. It wasn’t a “battle won”, as headlined in one local newspaper article, but was rather like most typical mountain climbs, a very long uphill slog, with a bit of scrambling here & there and a great summit for the finish… A dream come true.