At the end of Honeysuckle Lane, surrounded by residential neighbourhoods, is a forest valued by our community for recreational trail use and neighbourhood connection. The upland area of the property is mature Douglas-fir forest while the north-facing slope is rare, ecologically sensitive Cliff habit, with a few very large old-growth Douglas-fir trees (greater than 250 years old) scattered throughout. The lower area is primarily open-grown bigleaf maple.
The Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT) and the Gabriola Island Memorial Society (GIMS) want to see this 40-acre parcel (PID 012-350-711) transferred in its entirety to the Regional District of Nanaimo or another agency to hold as protected public parkland. The land is currently zoned as a gravel pit. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) holds the licence for its use and calls it the Barrett Quarry lands; we call it Honeysuckle Woods.
GalTT and GIMS are fully committed to conservation and earth-friendly land use and firmly believe this land must be kept in its natural state and protected from industrial development. We think preserving the 40-acre property for conservation, community access to trails and the creation of a natural burial site represents the highest and best land use for the Gabriola community. This is a unique opportunity for a collaborative community initiative to meet important conservation and ecological protection goals while servicing a community need.
GaLTT and GIMS staff met with MoTI staff in October 2022, but despite a positive first meeting and agreement to meet again soon, MoTI staff and their Minister Rob Fleming have since declined further engagement to discuss this important project. In fact, a few months after our meeting, in March 2023, MoTI erected “NO TRESPASSING” signs on the property knowing this is well-loved forest land long used by our community for passive recreation and community connection.
We are initiating a petition for the transfer of lands for MLA Doug Routley to present to the BC Legislature, and asking people to support us by signing the petition and contacting government representatives. This kind of show of support is a prerequisite for getting the BC government to even consider the option of land protection.
You can find copies of the petition at Ground Up Café, Nature Spirit Earth Market, North Road Sports, and Page’s Resort & Marina (office/store). A number of people have also taken copies to circulate among friends and neighbours, so you may find it elsewhere on the island.
PLEASE TELL THE BC GOVERNMENT THAT WE WANT THE BARRETT QUARRY LANDS PROTECTED!
GaLTT and GIMS wants to see the 40-acre parcel, in its entirety, transferred to an agency who will hold the land as public parkland.
In the most suitable area of the park, after consultation with geotechnical and other experts, up to 5 acres would be delineated for a natural burial site/memorial park to be designed and maintained by GIMS.
The whole of the new park reserve would include trails for passive recreational use, and ideally include the creation of an accessible trail.
A small parking area would be established to facilitate use of the memorial park during interments and park use during other times. Ideally a small covered area for gathering and memorialization would also be included in the final design.
An area in the burial park exclusively for members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, if they so wished, would be created in consultation with them.
GaLTT and GIMS are committed to having the conservation and passive recreation values of Honeysuckle Woods protected in perpetuity, and we both believe the inclusion of a natural burial site is entirely consistent with that vision. It was the collaborative efforts of the Denman Island local conservancy and memorial society that led to the creation of the Denman Island Natural Burial site in 2013. After the property is acquired, extensive soil/hydrological testing and consultation would determine whether the property is suitable for natural burial. If a safe, appropriate site can’t be located, then there won’t be a natural burial site at Honeysuckle Woods, and the entire property would become public parkland. However, our immediate priority is to get ownership of this beautiful property transferred from MoTI control so that it can never be used for open-pit mining.
Why this project makes sense for our community
Honeysuckle Woods contains rare and sensitive habitat with significant conservation value. It is surrounded by residential neighbourhoods and is a relatively undisturbed and beautiful forest with well used walking trails. For these reasons and others, it is unsuitable for an open-pit mining operation.
Preliminary evaluation by a specialist in hydrogeology indicates the quantity and quality of gravel for extraction on the land is likely substandard while the soil and land attributes are favourable to establishing an area for green burial. More investigative work is needed.
MoTI has TWO zoned gravel pits on Gabriola, Honeysuckle Woods and the South Road Firehall site. MoTI doesn’t need 2 gravel pits on Gabriola. Road building and resurfacing projects on Gabriola, including in recent years, have not used gravel resources from either MoTI site. MoTI has no immediate plans to extract gravel from the property, but says future open-pit mining at a larger scale may be necessary to provide materials for large-scale infrastructure projects.
The continued destruction and fragmentation of natural habitat threatens the health and sustainability of Gabriola’s ecosystems and our community.
The amount of protected land on Gabriola, currently at about 12%, lags far behind most Trust Area islands and opportunities for improvement are limited. (The average for the Trust Area is 20%, and the BC Government recently set a goal of protecting 30% of the province’s landbase.)
Gabriola needs a new site for full body burials and the community strongly supports that it be a natural burial site. Acquiring land that is suitable for burial in terms of soil depth and composition, setback from wells, and ease of access is challenging and with the high cost of land on Gabriola currently, it is prohibitive for a small community non-profit society to acquire.
The BC Sponsored Crown Grant program facilitated the transfer of 65 hectares of provincially managed land to create the S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve in 2006. We believe this program or something similar could be utilized for Honeysuckle Woods.
Canada, BC and Indigenous leaders recently signed an agreement to protect 30% of BC’s land by 2030. Protecting this land could help contribute to that goal.
As one of the very few large, government managed properties left on Gabriola not set aside for the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Honeysuckle Woods is an ideal candidate for transfer to community management and critically important to protect.
About the petition
Local politicians support our initiative, but we’ve been advised that showing that there is strong community support for protection is a prerequisite for getting the BC government to even consider the possibility of a transfer. We will collect signatures supporting our initiative through the end of February.
Why hardcopies? It is critically important that we collect hand-written signatures on printed petitions: this is the only format that will reliably be considered by the legislature.
Who should sign? We need signatures from locals: Gabriola, Mudge, and De Courcy residents and landholders. Other supporters should contact Doug Routley directly to add their voices.
How can you help?
- Sign our petition. We need to show MoTI and the BC Government that there is strong local support for converting this property to parkland!
- Contact MLA Routley directly to voice your support via letter, email or phone. (The words of both locals and non-locals help to reinforce the petition.)
Want to do more?
- Email us at email@example.com and we’ll send you a copy of our petition so you can get your friends and neighbours to sign. We will pick it up from you!
- If you’re not a resident or landholder, you can still write or email Doug Routley directly to support protection of the Barrett Quarry lands, or add your voice via the form letter posted on the GIMS website.
- Volunteer or donate! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Ask your friends and neighbours to do the same.
We need a big show of Island love and support! Please help us save Honeysuckle Woods.
Contact info for Doug Routley:
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Phone: (250) 387-3655
Tell MLA Routley: WE WANT THE BARRETT QUARRY LANDS PROTECTED!
What do we want?
Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT) and the Gabriola Island Memorial Society (GIMS) are working together to achieve the no-cash transfer of 40 acres of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI)-managed lands to the Gabriola community.
We want Honeysuckle Woods to remain green space and never be used for open-pit gravel extraction. Gabriola needs more protected land and a new burial site; Honeysuckle Woods could potentially meet both of these important community needs.
We need a strong showing of community support to create an opportunity for this to happen. Please sign the petition and email MLA Doug Routley (douglas.routley.MLA@leg.bc.ca) to express YOUR support.
Why is more parkland important?
Only 12% of Gabriola is currently protected, which is far less than most Gulf Islands. Our undisturbed island ecosystems are quickly disappearing and becoming increasingly fragmented. The Honeysuckle Woods property has high conservation value, and the land has been informally used by Gabriolans for its recreational trails and important neighbourhood connectivity for many years. Its acquisition as community parkland would ensure protection and public access in perpetuity.
What is natural burial?
Natural and green burial are terms often used interchangeably to describe burial practices that prioritize simplicity, sustainability, and the preservation of native ecosystems. Unlike conventional burials which often use non-biodegradable materials and toxic chemicals, natural burials only use earth-friendly materials that decompose over time with the body, gently merging with the earth. There are several sites where natural burial is practiced in British Columbia, including full natural burial sites on Denman and Salt Spring Islands.
How large would the burial site be and what will it look like?
The natural burial site area would be about five acres. The establishment of a natural or green burial site upholds conservation values, utilizing native vegetation and minimizing disturbance to the natural surroundings. One of the most important goals of green burial is to ensure native habitat is restored once the burial is completed. Disturbed areas would be naturally regenerated with shrubs, herbaceous species, and mosses and supplemented with native plantings where necessary. The forest cover would remain largely undisturbed.
Where would the burial site be?
If we are successful in getting Honeysuckle Woods transferred to the community, there would be professional analyses of soil, hydrology, and other important values, as well as community involvement before any decisions are made. There won’t be a natural burial site at Honeysuckle Woods unless a safe, appropriate site can be located. Our immediate priority is to get the Honeysuckle Woods property protected so it can never be used for open-pit gravel extraction.
What about increased traffic and parking?
Potential traffic impacts and parking are clearly valid concerns that must be adequately addressed if we are successful in acquiring the property. We are committed to working with the final landholder and neighbouring residents to find acceptable solutions.
We don’t expect a significant increase in traffic overall. The current cemetery has, on average, 12 interments a year with about 5 to 15 people attending each. It is unlikely that use of the property for passive recreation will differ significantly from current use.
Would a natural burial site cause soil contamination?
Most cemetery pollution comes not from the body but from the stuff often buried with it – coffins treated with varnish and sealers, synthetic fibers, embalming fluids, concrete vaults, and toxic ingredients from fertilizers used in landscaping by traditional cemeteries. Natural burial sites do not allow use of any of these. Strict provincial regulations and monitoring are in place to ensure the safe establishment and operation of burial sites. There will be no burial site at Honeysuckle Woods if soil and hydrological studies indicate there is not a safe zone in which to establish it.
What about the existing trails?
While there may be some re-routing in places, we anticipate few changes to the existing trail network. Public use will be maintained.
Have you consulted with the Snuneymuxw First Nation?
Building a respectful and meaningful relationship with the Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN) is important for both of our organizations. We have reached out to SFN from early in the process, walked the property with an Elder, acted on their advice, and will continue to seek opportunities for engagement. The final disposition of this land must ultimately be negotiated between governments, so our petition asks the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to “begin consultation with Snuneymuxw First Nation, Gabriola area residents, Regional District of Nanaimo and the Islands Trust for the purpose of transferring this land.” MLA Routley has made it clear that government to government consultation with First Nations is a requirement for all land transfer discussions.