A petition calling to protect and save the rest of Tonquin Forest in Tofino from further development is steadily climbing towards its goal of 1,000 signatures.
Nearly 600 people have signed the change.org petition since it was started by Tofino Natural Heritage on Jan. 17.
“Tofino is famous as a gateway to Clayoquot Sound, containing some of the last remaining old-growth forests in British Columbia. Inside this small town is a jewel known as Tonquin Forest or Tlaa-kaa-shiis, and the municipal government calls a portion of it “District Lot 114” (DL114),” states the petition.
In October 2021, the Tofino Housing Corporation (THC) began clearing part of DL114 to build two affordable housing apartment buildings. The first building, dubbed ‘Headwaters’, will have 35-unit and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2023. The second, 37-unit apartment building will likely be ready for occupancy the following year.
The petitioners call on the District of Tofino to establish the remainder of DL114 as protected parkland stating that intact forest are more crucial than ever in mitigating extreme weather events like heat domes and atmospheric rivers.
Tofino resident Eileen Floody spoke on behalf of the Tofino Natural Heritage, a group of concerned citizens that banded together in the early 2000s to save an 800-year-old western red cedar known as the “Eik Tree”.
“Anybody who cares about standing forests and the natural heritage of Tofino should sign it. The Tonquin Forest area is the only area like this within the bounds of the District of Tofino. It’s a huge tourism asset. It’s a huge local recreation asset,” said Floody.
The Tofino Natural Heritage understands Tofino’s urgent need for housing, Floody went on to note, but she challenged the district and locals to come up with more creative solutions.
She suggested a portion of land up Industrial Way could be used for summer housing or that perhaps the district could negotiate with Woodsmere, who owns 27-acres of land, to transfer a parcel of that over for affordable housing. Providing incentives to encourage residents with large lots to build second residences to rent out full-time instead of having a vacation rental was also suggested.
Early this month, the THC received a total of 90 applications for the ‘Creekside’ 14-unit rental apartment building at 700 Sharp Road. Executive director Ian Scott was previously quoted in a Dec. 20, 2021 Westerly article stating that while the upcoming 86 affordable housing units on Sharp Road and on DL114 will take a little bit of the pressure off, it still won’t come anywhere close to meeting the housing needs of the community.
“We’ll need to build somewhere else,” said Scott.
Anyone interested in signing the petition can visit change.org and search for Protect Tonquin Forest.
– With files from Andrew Bailey