The beginning

Preserving Gabriola from clearcutting and development

The controversial “parks in return for development” deal sought in the 1990s for the Weldwood lands in the centre of Gabriola Island, its rejection, and the subsequent clear-cutting of those lands by local loggers profoundly shocked our community and we became acutely aware of the lack of public land, trail access, and preserved ecosystems on Gabriola Island. In those days, there was no Cox Community Park, no Elder Cedar Nature Reserve, no 707 Community Park, no Coats Marsh Park, and there were far fewer legitimate public trails.

In the late 1990s and around 2000, members of the Gabriola Walking Group engaged in discussions about public trail access, as did the Gabriola Horse Group; and the Gabriola 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 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.

GaLTT’s founding

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.

The constitution and by-laws were drafted by founding members Carol and Stewart Boyce, Peter Drodzd, Ron Holmes, Andre Lemieux, Gail and Gus Lund, Kerry Marcus, Colin Masson, Gary McCollum, John McCormick, and Ernie Rushworth.

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. Other elected board members included Marilyn Beaubien, Carol Boyce, Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley, Em Gavin, Nigel Hart, Ron Holmes, Bart Jessup, Paula Maddison, and David Swanson (who resigned after the first meeting post AGM). After the AGM, Richard Welsh was appointed to the Board to serve as Treasurer.

Image shows a group of people.

By 2005 GaLTT already had over 150 members. This photo shows most of the Board elected in 2006. Back row: Bart Jessup, John Gambrill, Colin Masson, Tom Cameron, Randy Young. Front row: Judy Preston, Marilyn Beaubien, Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley, Kerry Marcus, and Carol Boyce.

Trails, parks, and reserves 2005-2019

First steps—Cox Park

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 develop trails, and eventually signage, throughout the park, and to help build boardwalks over wetlands. Read the history of Cox Community Park with photos here.

Volunteer work parties—trail building & managing invasive plants

From the beginning, GaLTT has organized regular volunteer work parties to clear and maintain trails, setting an ambitious goal to have public trail connections from Descanso Bay to Drumbeg by the end of 2010—a project not quite completed on time, but now close to complete. Negotiations with private landowners continue for the very few remaining connecting segments.

For many years, most of the volunteer trail work parties were organized by Randy and Lynne Young. Rob Brockley and later Peter Danenhower and Barry Moerkerken continued that major work, and, like Randy, they also often ended up storing tools and materials for GaLTT as well as managing volunteers and sharing in the hard work.

Two people standing on a wood and metal footbridge.
For years people crossed this gully in Joyce Lockwood Community Park rather precariously on a fallen log. In 2015 Randy and Lynne Young spearheaded GaLTT’s project to replace it with a proper footbridge, now named after them.
In 2016, GaLTT awarded honorary life memberships to Randy and Lynne in grateful recognition of their contribution to the development of Gabriola’s fine trail system.

Negotiation and support for parks and conservation areas

707 Community Park

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 (roughly 286 hectares) of previously logged forest land in the centre of the island to the community.

Group of people holding up a map showing the outlines of a new park.

Holding the map: Deb Ferens (Trustee) and Wendy Marshall (RDN Parks). Others L-R: Gabriolan Cheryl Boorer, consultant Wendy Farmer-O’Neil, Snuneymuxw Elder Jeff Thomas, consultant Dr Katherine Dunster, RDN Parks representative Elaine McCulloch, and RDN Director Gisele Rudischer. (Photo © Chris Bowers)

The 707 Acre Wood Community Park Management Plan sub-committee April 2, 2009 with a map of the new community park.

The Shingle reported that Dunster said: “…the subcommittee wants to hear what dreams the community may have for the park, but noted that there are zoning restrictions, and covenants and commitments made to protect the land that will have to be respected.”

For the next couple of years, as the RDN developed a management plan for the new park, GaLTT and other community members and groups provided information, identifying and geo-referencing existing trails and significant environmental features on the land. Gabriola’s 707 Community Park has since been expanded to 425 hectares (1052 acres) of naturally regenerating forest high in the middle of the island, with a complex signposted trail system connecting to the village, to North Road, and to South Road. GaLTT has supported and contributed financially to these acquisitions, and our volunteers designed and installed the signpost wayfaring system.

AT the unveiling of the new Coats March Regional Park sign: L to R: CEO of Nature Trust of BC, Doug Walker; RDN Chair, Joe Stanhope; previous landholder Clyde Coats; GLC representative, Leigh Ann Millman; and RDN Director, Gisele Rudischer. (Photo © Chris Bowers)

Official opening of Coats Marsh, May 22, 2009. Gabriola Land Conservancy (GLC) initiated the acquisition and protection of Coats Marsh in 2005. The 46-ha park includes a rare 10-ha wetland, complete with a resident beaver. The Shingle newspaper reported that

  • Millman said that “Setting aside and protecting natural areas is one of the best ways of investing in the future of our collective well-being.”
  • Coats said “This is what I consider the most precious piece of land I have on Gabriola.
  • Stanhope described the new park as “…a fine representation of the fast disappearing dry sub-maritime coastal Douglas-fir forest
  • Walker said This is a fantastic day for conservation, the people of Gabriola, the region, and the province”.
  • and that “the dream of the park became a reality because the Coats family wanted to give back something to the community in perpetuity.
S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve

GaLTT also helped the Islands Trust and the Land Conservancy in their campaign to establish S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve. For 15 years the local community and Snuneymuxw First Nations (SFN) had worked together to protect this rare stand of old growth trees, which, in May 2006, became the first Free Crown Grant received from the Province by the Islands Trust Conservancy (then called Islands Trust Fund).

Group of people standing in front of a sign for the S'ul-hween X'pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve.

The dedication of S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve. On the left of the photo, L-R, Nancy Hetherington-Peirce, John Peirce, Sheila Malcolmson, Jennifer Eliason (manager of ITF, now ITC), 3 obscured faces, and Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley. On the right of the photo, L-R, Kerry Marcus, Jenni Gehlbach, a UK visitor fond of Land Trusts, and Nick Doe. (Photo © Chris Bowers)

At first, the nature reserve was usually referred to locally as “Elder Cedar”, the English translation of S’ul-hween X’pey—the Hul’qumi’num name given to it by SFN Elder, Dr Ellen White. In 2022, to honour its cultural significance, a beautiful new sign made by artist Eliot White Hall, who is Dr White’s great grandson, was installed by GaLTT volunteers.

Helping to buy parkland on Mudge and Gabriola Islands

GaLTT has contributed financially to the purchase of land for parks by the RDN; first toward the creation of Dodd Narrows Community Park on Mudge Island (2017) and then in 2019 toward the purchase of a 9-acre addition to the 707 Community Park adjacent to Coats Marsh Regional Park. See our Our Conservation Work for more details.

Cooperative planning and management contracts with governments

In 2008 GaLTT was awarded a contract by the Islands Trust Fund (now IT Conservancy) to help manage S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar), according to its official Management Plan. It also awarded GaLTT a contract to control invasive species, help with signage in the reserve, and build boardwalks to protect sensitive wetlands from foot traffic. These contracts have been renewed annually since then.

Following the establishment of 707-acre Wood Community Park (now simply called 707 Community Park) in 2005, and Coats Marsh Regional Park in 2009, GaLTT has worked with the RDN in support of their park management plan objectives, particularly with respect to invasive plant control, trails, and signage. In 2022 for the first time, we received funding of $5000 (to be increased to $7,500 in 2023) in recognition of our volunteer work—a significant milestone for GaLTT.

Conservation covenants and trail licences—new tools for GaLTT

In 2010 GaLTT received government authorization to hold conservation covenants on Gabriola Island. A covenant ensures the protection of land in its existing natural state in perpetuity because the agreement is registered on the land title. It may or may not allow public access to the property covenanted. Our first conservation covenant was signed on March 18, 2011, on a private forested hillside property. This covenant is co-held by the Islands Trust Conservancy and was the second NAPTEP covenant on Gabriola. Soon after this, GaLTT President John Peirce worked with landholder Sally Robinson, who is a US citizen, to secure a covenant on Robinson Woods through American Friends of Canadian Land Trust (now American Friends of Canadian Conservation, AFCC). Such covenants offer tax benefits to US citizens. AFCC works closely with ITC.

Several covenants are now co-held by GaLTT on Gabriola, and in 2022 the area within which GaLTT can hold covenants was legally extended to Gabriola’s whole local Islands Trust area.

In 2011, GaLTT assumed the ability to sign trail licences with private landholders. Our first such licence was for a trail connecting Barrett Road to Rollo Park. Trail licences grant public access to defined areas of privately held land, with GaLTT holding liability insurance in regard to damage and to injuries sustained by trail users. The licensed trails are clearly marked with signage by GaLTT, whose volunteers also develop and maintain the trail in good condition for public access on foot, bike, or horse (depending on the specifics of landholder agreements). Such licences can be suspended at any time by the landholder. By the end of 2019, GaLTT had signed 19 trail licence agreements, which allowed us to reach our goal of end-to-end trails across Gabriola, connecting neighbourhoods and public green space, and more licences have followed that achievement.

Strategic planning for GaLTT’s expanding roles

Late in 2011, GaLTT’s members and Board worked together to develop our first 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 (a biking group).

With these 2017 goals largely met by 2014, board and members worked together again to make a Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2020. Our aims included further enhanced cooperation with other local volunteer groups and the school and developing a deeper relationship with Snuneymuxw First Nation. We also identified the need to update our graphic identification with a new logo and updated web design, and to improve signage in our trail system, working as needed with RDN and other government bodies, but not all of these goals were met by the end of 2019.

Discussions on our Facebook page and on the more widely read Community Bulletin Boards brought to our attention the increasing need for improved accessibility to beaches and trails for the mobility-impaired, particularly since the Gabriolan community includes a higher than usual percentage of seniors. To understand better these needs, GaLTT launched our 2019 Accessibility Survey (downloadable PDF of findings), and also began cataloguing all public shore accesses, many of which were found to be overgrown or blocked or have decaying ramps and stairs.

Using our volunteers to better conserve and connect

Toward the end of 2019, GaLTT recognized that some volunteer reorganization was needed if we were to fulfil our dual “conserve and connect” mandate more efficiently. The hard and popular volunteer work done by the Trail Maintenance volunteers had always included control of invasive species in public spaces and lobbying provincial and regional parks departments about the need to control them. This work was now recognised as a significant conservation initiative. To bring our organizational structure and volunteer force more in line with our dual mandate, we disbanded the Acquisitions, Conservation, and Trail Licences Committee, replacing it with:

  • The newly named Conservation Committee continuing to do all work relating to land acquisition and protection, including covenant management.
  • A new Invasive Species Committee to emphasize and expand this important conservation work, using a fresh force of dedicated volunteers, working cooperatively with BC and RDN parks departments, and internally, with GaLTT’s Community Engagement Committee.
  • The Trail Operations Committee, which continues the work of developing and maintaining trails and boardwalks in public areas, working cooperatively with RDN and BC Parks Departments. In addition, this committee has taken over the management of trail licences which grant legal, limited public access across private land. Of course, they also build and maintain those licensed trails.

Renewed focuses for the 2020s

At our strategic planning session at the end of 2019, GaLTT set new goals for the following five years. Directors and members agreed that with our beautiful trail system firmly established throughout Gabriola, we needed to enhance our efforts in conservation, invasives management, accessibility, and First Nations relations. We also discussed the capacity of our volunteers to undertake this vastly increased workload.


The work began with efforts to improve and widen communication with our supporters and the whole Gabriola community. Our refreshed logo re-emphasized our aims to “conserve and connect”; our new website in 2021 offered superior graphic design, expanded information, a blog, and (in 2022) a Calendar of Events. In late 2022 we contracted out expanded communications with members, volunteers, donors, and the general public through emails and social media, offering regular news bulletins and colourful invitations to participate in our work.

Conservation initiatives

We continue our work to participate in conservation initiatives with Islands Trust and other organizations. In 2021, GaLTT advocated for the protection of Saturnina Island by BC Parks, and also committed to participate in that Flat Top Island’s future stewardship. In 2022, when the Swift family generously donated Link Island to the Islands Trust, GaLTT legally extended the geographical area within which we are permitted to hold conservation covenants (previously only Gabriola Island) to include our whole local Islands Trust area (Gabriola, Link, DeCourcy, Mudge, and the Flat Top Islands). We then agreed to co-hold the new conservation covenant on Link Island with NALT.

Nature Stewards Program: Knowing that the vast majority (67%) of Gabriola land is in private hands, with very few large lots compared to other Gulf Islands, GaLTT recognizes the need to ensure that local landholders conserve as much native habitat as possible. To this end, in 2021, we contracted out the formation and management of the “Gabriola Nature Stewards”— a program asking landholders to voluntarily pledge to conserve native/wildlife-friendly habitat on 30% or more of their property. A volunteer team encourages and helps landholders to preserve or restore to its natural state as much of their own land as possible. If they wish, their properties are marked with signage stating that they are Nature Stewards, conserving Gabriola’s native habitat.

Enhanced invasives control: The Invasive Species Committee has increased efforts to control invasive plants in our public spaces. BC Parks supported an extension of the work done for many years by GaLTT and the Gabriola Lions to remove Scotch broom in Drumbeg Park, organising removal of huge piles of cut broom. To achieve this during the “Covid lockdown” GaLTT’s volunteer teams were given special permission to work in spaced groups within the park. BC Parks also helped with extensive Daphne laureola removal in Gabriola Sands Provincial Park at Twin Beaches, and RDN Parks staff have strongly supported our invasives control work at Queequeg Community Park.

Site restoration: It became clear that simple removal of invasives is not enough to prevent its re-establishment or the establishment of new problem species. Site restoration by replacing invasives with vigorous native species has become an important part of the committee’s work.

Experimentation plots: The Invasives Committee performs on-going experiments to assess the effectiveness of various removal and restorative planting techniques in test plots generously supplied by landholders.

Native Plant Depot: In 2021 GaLTT established a plant rescue team to stock the “Native Plant Depot” at the Gabriola Commons to support restoration work on privately held lands. Landholders clearing land for construction are invited to let our volunteer team help remove valuable native plants, which are potted up and delivered to the Depot. Anyone trying to restore their bit of native habitat may freely take plants from the Depot.

Accessibility improvements

Our Island-wide Accessibility Survey (downloadable PDF of findings) in 2019 revealed the growing need to improve access to our trails and beaches for the mobility-impaired, especially since Gabriola has a high percentage of elderly residents. Many of our trails are long, steep, and heavily rutted and rooted. Some entrances are narrow. Many mapped and marked beach accesses are overgrown or blocked, have eroding pathways, or decaying ramps and stairs. A survey of all 109 beach accesses, revealed that none of them were easily navigated by the mobility impaired—most were difficult even for agile users.

Some accessibility improvements were made to the parking lot, viewpoint, toilet, and picnic table at Pilot Bay in 2021, with the help of Gabriola Lions, and with BC Parks’ permission and financing, but the blocked and eroding shoreline still hinders beach access. In 2023, we are working with RDN Parks to explore the possibilities for improved access at the Descanso Bay Campground day-use area—the only oceanfront campground in the RDN park system.

Several generous volunteer woodworkers have built beautiful wooden resting benches, which our trail-work team have installed at key positions on the public trail network over the last few years, allowing walkers to rest and contemplate their surroundings. A series of simpler resting stumps have also been installed along the Jeanette trail in 707 Community Park.

First Nations relations

We are committed to increasing cooperation with local First Nations to discover common interests on their existing territory and on the extensive lands set aside on Gabriola for Treaty negotiation. In Fall 2022, President Rob Brockley attended a Snuneymuxw First Nation Council meeting to formally introduce ourselves and describe GaLTT’s work, respectfully expressing the hope that we can work cooperatively in future. In addition, our Community Engagement Committee participates at every opportunity in local initiatives such as the canoe carving on school grounds and launch at Taylor Bay during the SFU/Snuneymuxw-Syath, Living History and Culture Project in the winter and spring of 2022.


You can look back through GaLTT’s history in its Records. Here you’ll find minutes from AGMs and board meetings, our annual newsletters, and copies of documents publicly stating our position on various issues.

GaLTT History updated April 2023. Our work continues….