Caught off guard by a plan to log more than 600 hectares of treasured local forest, residents near Cottonwood Lake discovered that privately owned lands can be clearcut without public notice, consultation with neighbours or the requirement to replant logged areas.
Against a dramatic backdrop of steeply forested slopes, Cottonwood Lake near Nelson draws thousands of summer visitors for swimming, picnics, lolling around on floaties or kayaks and fishing from the dock, while in winter the shallow lake is used for hockey games, community get-togethers and ice-fishing.
“Last year it was almost like a Norman Rockwell painting out there. It’s a really special little place,” said Andrew McBurney, spokesman for the Cottonwood Lake Preservation Society, a non-profit group formed in December to fight logging plans that residents believe threaten the widely used park and the nearby Apex Nordic ski trails.
Residents fear clearcut logging on adjacent privately owned land will destroy the scenic value of the small park and cross-country ski trails and, because of the steep terrain, could destroy unique wildlife habitat and cause landslides and flooding.
Local support for stopping the logging and expanding the park has been overwhelming. Within a month the Preservation Society exceeded its goal of raising $50,000 in seed money. Underlining the public support, a meeting, organized by the society, drew a standing-room only crowd of more than 400 people including wildlife, environmental, hydrology and tourism experts.