A proposal is underway to create a new near-urban national park in the region, based on the land and the surrounding waters of the largest island in Howe Sound, Gambier Island.

The idea has been in the works for more than three years. Stephen Foster, Howe Sound Campaign Lead for the David Suzuki Foundation says the goal is to have Parks Canada commit to a feasibility assessment. He says they’re reaching out to the public not to ask the question of if they want a park or not, but to go through a public engagement process that would lead to a study; “It would be that first significant step towards looking at a park in Howe Sound”.

Foster says by creating a national park, significant funding would be available as well as the highest form of protection currently available anywhere in the country, something a provincial park cannot offer. “The narrative of recovery is significant… it’s a pretty exciting moment. We’re seeing humpbacks we haven’t seen in generations, we’re seeing the salmon, the herring, anchovies, dolphins”. He says governments, individuals and non-governmental organizations deserve credit for the recovery. Foster also says that at the same time we’re looking at all kinds of new development, including the possible new Burnco aggregate gravel mine, and Woodfibre LNG facility along with residential development that could “very quickly tip the balance against this recovery”.

Two meetings have so far been held with residents of Gambier Island regarding the idea. Foster says residents greeted the proposal with caution, particularly the permanent residents of the island; “they want to know that you’re not just coming in and shoving something down their throat”.

A wide circle of partners and land owners has been created that includes; Squamish Nation, the United Church (who have land on the island), Local Islands Trust Council, the Province of B.C., Government of Canada and Parks Canada. Foster says they just want to invite everyone to a conversation with the agencies, and that they are not asking anyone to commit further than that; “The interest is clearly high, and the interest isn’t so much, hey I’m going all the way to committing to a park, but it’s that commitment to a process to find out what this opportunity is”.

53% of the island is Crown land, and the potential for logging on the island has people “on notice” says Foster. He says that has challenged people to think of the future. The Province had planned to allow two woodlots, totaling 1,326 hectors (29.1% of the total Crown land area or 19% of the island) in 2014. Pressure from residents forced the government to re-think the awarding of a logging contract, at least for now.

A website, launched this week, has been created at SustainableHoweSound.ca for the public to have their say on whether or not a study should be conducted. The David Suzuki Foundation has made a long term commitment to Howe Sound and will sustain, support and engage people on it, and if it’s viable hand it off to the right parties.

“It’ll need a lot of community engagement, and that’s the good thing about what Parks Canada does, before any kind of decision on a park gets made” Foster says.


Filed under: BC, British Columbia, David Suzuki Foundation, Gambier Island, Howe Sound, National Park