Electoral area directors supportive of reviewing 707 prescription options

Electoral area service committee directors voted unanimously in support of a motion from Area B’s parks and open spaces advisory committee to further investigate options around implementing the 707 Community Park fuel management prescription plan before taking any action.

The motion calls for a staff report on options for implementing the prescription in the Gabriola park “that are more reflective of the ecological goals of a park, including implications and opportunities for grant funding, project phasing and length of time implementing the project, implementing a pilot or demonstration project, different implementation options other than mechanical, and using Area B Community Parks funds instead of grant funds.”

“The POSAC in general wasn’t opposed to a treatment,” Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig prefaced the EASC vote. “Having a fuel management prescription at a park, there’s different objectives when you’re managing a park than when you’re managing for fuel or a developed forest.”

The report could be useful for other directors who in future have fuel management prescriptions completed for parks in their electoral areas, Craig added. Lehann Wallace and Bob Rogers, directors for Electoral Areas H and E, respectively, both spoke in favour of the motion at the Jan. 12 EASC meeting.

“I know that we used this specific example [the 707] during the EASC when the prescriptions came forward for parks that represent wildlife corridors and ecological diversity, biodiversity, and how do you balance that with prescriptions that are quite aggressive, and I think there’s a little bit more work to do on this one,” Wallace said.

Rogers noted the idea of a pilot or demonstration area within part of the prescription could be particularly useful in helping the public understand options around implementing prescriptions.

The 707 Community Park prescription is the first of regional district parks to reach this stage of implementation. The prescription, written through grant funding by Diamond Head Consulting, recommends implementing treatment in three units, or phases, to reduce fire risk in the park, which is considered to be high. The three treatment areas total 95.6 hectares, or 22 per cent of the total park area. The prescription recommends thinning the trees to 600 stems per hectare, or 88 per cent of the standing stems, from small seedlings to mature trees. Thinning would begin with the smallest stems, including dead and dying ones. Deciduous stems would be preferentially retained to maintain biodiversity. All cut trees would be chipped and hauled away.

In the fall, staff had recommended that phase 1, located along the North Road emergency access, begin in 2024, with a Union of BC Municipalities Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) grant application submitted this year.

The grant stream funds up to 100 per cent of the costs; however, it requires the prescription to be followed exactly as written. According to a 2022 staff report, phase 1 has an approximate cost of $146,616. Including phases 2 and 3, the cost to implement the prescription would be $1.4 million.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder