Friday, October 22, 2010

doggie minding in qualicum beach

People love trains. They wave at them from their backyards, and from their cars while waiting at the crossings. I witnessed this last week, as I journeyed on what is probably Via Rail’s tiniest train that runs between Victoria and Courtenay/Comox. It’s just two cars long, and does one route a day – up the island, and then back to Victoria. I rode the train to get to Qualicum Beach, for a doggie minding gig.

My first morning walking through what’s known as the “Gnome Forest,” at the edge of town and surrounded by what might in future be a sub-division road, I met Hugh and his dog, Mr. Tate. Hugh, in his younger years, was one of the main trail and bridge builders in this little forest. A retired worker for BC Electric (now BC Hydro), Hugh commissioned various community forest lovers to help build signs to identify trees and birds, he found a retired forestry worker who took a core sample of a 1000 year old cedar stump and affirmed its age, he participated in publishing a book about the little patch of Qualicum Beach green space that has taken on a life of its own.

Community forest walkers add their own gifts to the nooks and crannies of the woods, claiming a special relationship with a little piece of ever-diminishing green space. Clay frogs and gnomes, wind chimes, wooden owls (also Hugh’s contribution), bird houses and feeders, even a wishing well adorn the forest. There are two comment books, tucked away in protective wooden boxes nailed to trees and, Hugh tells me, they’ve recorded comments from people all over the world. These will be useful when the day arrives to save this little piece of forest from destruction for some kind of monetary profit.

Speaking about conservation, referring to my own experiences watching green spaces in and around Victoria and particularly Langford disappear, I learn that Qualicum Beach citizens pitched in a few years ago and bought the Brown Woods. Of course this all was native land, and the idea of purchasing stolen land is abhorrent, but these days it seems the only solution. I’ve yet to visit Brown Woods, it’s on the other side of town, I’m told it houses full grown ancient trees whereas the Gnome Forest has only stumps leftover from non-industrialized logging practices. Modern clearcutting, slash and burn, doesn’t even leave stumps behind.

Certainly this Gnome Forest ought to be next on the list for local protection. Part of it’s owned by the city, but of course that doesn’t guarantee anything. Part of it’s owned privately. Both Hugh, and the good people at the Heaven on Earth health store, and I’m sure many others, appreciate the value of preserving green spaces. And, they seem to understand the need to keep an eye on city council so they can stop the bulldozers before the plans are conceived behind closed doors and without public consultation, which seems to be the way democracy works these days.

You can take a virtual hike through Qualicum Beach’s Gnome Forest by clicking here.