Local volunteers helped upgrade Meares Island’s Big Tree Trail last year and similar opportunities are popping up again this summer. (FOCS - Photo)

Friends of Clayoquot Sound launch trail building events

“It’s a real bush experience.”

The season is turning and opportunities to dig into the West Coast’s summer wonderland are beginning to abound.

The Friends of Clayoquot Sound have put three trail-building experiences on the horizon in an effort to enhance connections to old growth forests.

Two camping trips—June 16-19 and August 25-28—on Flores Island will beautify and expand the Ahousaht First Nation’s popular Walk the Wild Side Trail and a July 8-9 day-trip will send participants to the Wah-nuh-jus – Hilthoois Tribal Park on Meares Island

The Friends believe that providing opportunities for West Coasters to get their hands dirty building trails throughout awe-inspiring old growth environments will increase their understanding of what surrounds them and motivate them to protect it.

“The project will engage both visitors and residents in Clayoquot Sound’s old growth forests to create sustainable and positive interactions between people and the natural environment,” according to the Friends’ website. “Well-maintained accessible trails bolster the sustainable tourism industry in the region and bring more people and more awareness to the ancient forests.”

Participants will work alongside First Nations guardians to map out new trails, clear debris and cut boardwalk planks from fallen trees, according to Friends’ campaigner Jeh Custera.

“You get people out in nature, using their senses to engage and they have a different experience than if they’re just at home on their computer,” Custera told the Westerly News. “It’s like camping, but it’s more rugged in that you’re working. It’s a real bush experience.”

Anyone wanting to take part in the experiences the Friends are offering should visit focs.ca/trailbuilding to register. Transportation, tools and guidance will be provided, but anyone who signs up is reminded to bring their own camping gear and food.

Custera said a key motivator behind the Friends’ trail building projects was the Ahousaht First Nation’s recent Land Use Vision announcement earlier this year, which laid out the establishment of a conservation economy where the natural landscape will be mined for tourism opportunities, rather than extractable resources.

“It’s really exciting for us to be able to support their vision for land use in their territory,” Custera said. “It’s essentially working with the natural environment in a way that sustains resources and supports their abundance, rather than just extracts them for short term profit.”

He said the West Coast is well suited to foster a conservation economy thanks to a strong tourism market centred around natural beauty and outdoor adventures and added that expanding opportunities to explore old growth environments will make it easier for locals to understand why those environments should be maintained.

“It’s getting people out to actually see the trees and make that personal connection with the forest,” he said. “Experiencing the forest in person, the sight of them, the feel of them, the size of them, helps transform how people relate to the natural world, including how they relate to old growth forests.”

The Friends will drum up interest in their trail building events by hosting a movie night at the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre on May 17 at 7:30 p.m. where locals are invited to watch ‘Call of the Forest,’ a documentary that follows scientist and author Diana Beresford-Kroeger while she investigates biological and spiritual connections to ancient trees.

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