The controversial "parks in return for development" deal for the Weldwood lands in the centre of Gabriola Island, its rejection, and the subsequent clear-cut logging of those lands in the 1990s profoundly shocked our community and we became acutely aware of the lack of public land, trail access, and preserved ecosystems on the island.
Community groups become active
In the late 1990s and around 2000, members of the Gabriola Walking Group engaged in discussions about trail access, as did the Gabriola Horse Group; and the Land Conservancy people were advocating for the preservation of ecosystems on the island. They were all actively promoting ideas that later became central to GaLTT's philosophy and action.
In those days, there was no Cox Community Park, no Elder Cedar Nature reserve, no 707-acre Park, no Coats Marsh Park, and there were many fewer legitimate public trails. In 2002, the RDN purchased the lands now known as Cox Community Park on behalf of Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, and De Courcy Islands). The Electoral Area B Parks and Open Spaces Action Committee (POSAC) was inaugurated in June, 2003, providing an avenue of liaison between the RDN and our community. Several POSAC members recognised that a Gabriola community-based registered charitable society could be beneficial in fundraising and organizing volunteers for park and trail initiatives.
Through 2004 a group of Gabriolans coalesced to establish a registered society to advocate for more park and trail access, and to provide a vehicle to raise funds for land and trail acquisition. The Gabriola Land and Trails Trust was formally founded in the Fall of 2004. Community support was strong and more than 80 people attended the first AGM. Kerry Marcus was elected the first President, and Colin Masson Vice-president. By 2005 GaLTT had over 150 members.
Practical work—projects & negotiation
Our first project was in Cox Community Park: with RDN supervision, GaLTT and many dedicated community volunteers worked through the winter of 2004/5 to build a new trail parallel to Taylor Bay Road. The new "Yogi Trail" was officially opened in April, 2005. GaLTT continued to help build boardwalks over wetlands and develop trails (and eventually signage) throughout the park. You can view pictures and read about the history of Cox Community Park here.
You can trace GaLTT's subsequent history through our newsletters:
Our board works hard and meets each month, usually on the evening of the second Tuesday of the month at the Arts Council's Womens Institute Hall near the Post Office. Find out more about how the Board works on the Board page of this website. To read the minutes of our past board meetings, click on the year 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. (Minutes for 2004 to 2009 are archived in print format only.)
Volunteer work parties—trail building and invasive plant control
From the beginning, GaLTT has organized regular volunteer work parties to clear and maintain trails, setting a goal to have public trail connections from Descanso Bay to Drumbeg by the end of 2010—a project not quite completed on time, but negotiations with private landowners and government bodies continue for the remaining few connecting segments.
For many years, most of the volunteer trail work parties were organized by Randy and Lynne Young. Rob Brockley now continues this major work, and, like Randy, also often ends up storing tools and materials for GaLTT.
GaLTT also continues to educate the local community about invasive plants on their land, to organize work parties to clear invasive plants from public areas, and to lobby provincial and regional parks departments about the need to control invasive species. GaLTT's work parties partner annually with the Lions Club in the ongoing battle against Scotch broom in Drumbeg Park. The Commons also does sterling invasives-management work, and recently, local Girl Guides have joined the fight.
Negotiation and support for parks and conservation areas
GaLTT played an important supporting role in the significant work done by the Islands Trust and the RDN in negotiation with three property owners, leading to a density-transfer rezoning agreement in September 2005. The agreement transferred about 707 acres of previously logged forest land in the centre of the island to the community. GaLTT and other community members and groups provided information, identifying and geo-referencing existing trails and significant environmental features on the land through 2006-7 as the RDN developed a management plan for the area. Gabriola's 707-acre Community Park is now a valuable regenerating forest area with a complex signposted trail system connecting to the village, to North Road, and to South Road.
GaLTT also helped the Islands Trust and the Land Conservancy in their campaign to establish Elder Cedar (S'ul-hween X'pey) Nature Reserve, which became the first Free Crown Grant received by the Islands Trust Fund from the province. It protects a rare stand of old growth trees.
In 2008 GaLTT was awarded a contract to help manage Elder Cedar according to the ITF's official Management Plan, and another contract to control invasive species and help with signage in the reserve. Since the establishment of 707-acre Community Park in 2005 and Coats Marsh Regional Park in 2009, GaLTT has continued working with with the RDN in support of their park management plan objectives, particularly with respect to invasive plant control, trails, and signage.
Working with Gabriola Commons
GaLTT has developed a supportive relationship with Gabriola Commons since 2009, helping to identify and remove invasive species on the property, and protecting the natural wetland by building a boardwalk as part of a trail connecting South and North Roads. GaLTT is also helping them draft a covenant to protect their land.
In 2012, Gabriola Streamkeepers group was formed under the GaLTT umbrella. They are mapping and monitoring Gabriola's streams and have held workshops to learn and teach the techniques needed to assess and restore degraded streams. In the spring of 2013 they were very excited to discover small salmon fry in a couple of the island's streams. They have also worked with children and teachers at Gabriola Elementary School.
Holding covenants and trail licences
In 2010, GaLTT acquired the legal ability to hold covenants on privately held property, protecting it against development or destruction, and to negotiate trail licences with landowners, providing limited public access across private land.
On March 18, 2011 Directors Tom Cameron and John Peirce signed GaLTT's first covenant, which we co-hold with the Islands Trust Fund, and it is the second NAPTEP covenant on Gabriola. It is on a tract of forested land then owned by Karl Bachmann and Marianne Koenig near Brickyard Hill, protecting it in perpetuity against development and preserving it in its natural state. The signatories (Peirce, Bachmann, Koenig, and Cameron) are seen in this photo with some other GaLTT board members. GaLTT signed the covenant on Elder Cedar Nature Reserve at its AGM in February 2012.
GaLTT worked with American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts helping to negotiate a cross-border covenant (signed in 2013) on forested land between Cooper and Thompson Roads owned by Sally Robinson who is a US citizen. Such covenants enable US citizens covenanting land in BC (or elsewhere in Canada) to claim a tax advantage with the IRS as well as reducing their taxable capital gains in Canada.
Trail licences increasing connectivity
In October 2011, GaLTT signed their first trail licence agreement with landowners Bill and Diane Cornish, allowing public access by foot, bicycle, or horse across their land between Barrett Road and Rollo Park. GaLTT maintains the trail and carries the needed insurance over the lifetime of the agreement. That licence has recently been renewed. GaLTT continues its work negotiating such licences with local landowners. At first GaLTT approached landowners to urge their participation, but recently landowners have also initiated such discussions, much to our delight. To date, GaLTT has issued over a dozen such trail licences, and lost only one due to a change of ownership and land-use.
Strategic planning for 2012-2020
GaLTT's members and Board worked together late in 2011 to develop a Strategic Plan for 2012 through 2017. Goals included reaching out to the community with guided forest and beach walks, a Facebook page, and Welcome Wagon cards offering a free guided walk with a GaLTT member. We also wished to develop a Big Tree Registry, engage youth, and deepen our cooperation and partnering with other community groups such as, Streamkeepers, The Commons and The Cyclepaths. With these goals largely met, board and members worked together again in 2014 to make a Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2020, summarized here.