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General News · 26th March 2015
Friends of Cortes (Leah)
In June 2013, Friends of Cortes Island Society (FOCI) initiated dialogue with the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) about a proposal to establish a formal park at the Whaletown Ferry Terminal. This vision grew out of a series of Parks & Trails Meet-Ups where local community members poured over maps and gave their input about what trails and parks they felt were priorities.

The site at the ferry terminal was identified as a key area that was worth restoring and revitalizing. This scenic park located below the ferry parking lot, provides a wonderful place to rest or walk during ferry waits, especially during summer overloads and on hot, sunny days. This property also has heritage value as it was one of the first established settler homesteads on Cortes Island and was the location of the whale blubber rendering station from 1869-1870.

After the SRD received the formal proposal prepared by FOCI volunteers, they entered into negotiations with BC Ferries, who are the property owners, and the Ministry of Highways, who are responsible for the right of way access on Byers Road. These negotiations took over a year to complete but in November 2014, the SRD announced that they had entered into a formal agreement with these agencies to manage the area as a public park.

If you have walked down to the park over the past several months, you will notice that there has been some clearing and minor renovations. The SRD has contracted Ryan Harvey to carry out preliminary work to help prepare the site and make some basic accessibility improvements. FOCI is not overseeing this work as we do not currently hold the management contract for this park.

At this time, and with current SRD budget limitations, no long-term maintenance contract has been created. Until a management contract has been awarded, please direct any questions or concerns that you may have about the park to SRD Parks and Facilities Technician:

Michael McGregor: or 250.830.6722

Thank you to Ryan Harvey, Rick Kolstad, and Deb Peters for dedicating many hours to mapping, planning, brush clearing, and moving this project forwards.

The following list outlines some of the improvements identified in the initial park proposal.

Trail access:
• Clean out excess growth on existing trail from Whaletown Road/ Ferry Terminal
• Re-route parking lot trail for a less steep grade making it a safer access, using the homestead terraces and possibly including steps.
Picnic table area:
• Brush removed for comfortable access (i.e. hack back blackberries). Create ocean view while retaining shrubs that stabilize the bank; possibly a low hedge to see over that would still provide bank stabilization. Locate a refuse container in this zone.

Beach access:
• Re-route the trail above cherry tree as bank is eroding at the primary existing beach access below the picnic table. A couple of benches near the beach access are suggested.
Heritage values:
• Charming intact ivy-covered rock wall with crumbling stairway to the ocean; this could possibly be restored.
• The remaining retaining wall is deteriorating and structurally unsound. We would suggest that BC Ferries consider options that do not detract from the heritage aesthetics. This is a major project that could be addressed at a second stage of renovation, but is not one that FOCI or volunteer efforts could be expected to address independently.
• Save and maintain old 'homestead' fruit & nut trees and ornamentals; apple, cherry, blueberry, lilac, weigela, mock orange, large holly, quince, saint john’s wort, and others.
• Explore possible participation from the Cortes Island Museum and Archives Society to produce interpretative signs
• Consult with adjacent property owners as they may also have additional historical information
General cleanup:
• Remove woody slash on bank near ferry terminal.
• Remove old fencing on north property boundary by the big maple; note white property marker.
• General debris and garbage removal

For FOCI related questions, please contact Leah at: