The call to protect the Stillwater Bluffs by purchasing it for a park is now a matter for public discussion. The Friends of Stillwater Bluffs is pleased to see a renewed interest in honoring this wondrous place as a part of our natural heritage. It certainly is that for those who have taken the time to enjoy the benefits of visiting there through the seasons. Now that it is threatened by commercial logging, it appears the only way to save the bluffs will be to purchase the property from the corporate owners. The question arises whether the whole 118 acres of DL3040 must be purchased or is there a compromise of less land which could be a more realistic and economical prospect? What things should be considered to answer this question?
The reason that people seek out the bluffs, and then return again and again is to have the experience of being very small in something that is very big. The lush forest, the great rock cliffs, the ocean vistas all serve to transport a mere human out of their petty affairs of life and into a secluded world of natural cycles existing in apparent timeless harmony. Somehow the dramatic scale of the geography allows greater appreciation of the fragile plants clinging to rock and crevice, and the subtle sounds of trickling water or the sea lions offshore. One approaches the bluffs through a moist silent forest and then bursts into the exposed headlands where a variety of points of interest await. Following the shoreline footpath eventually leads you back into a dense fir forest and through a bank of salal to another rock promontory and more ocean waves and winds. This in and out environment repeats itself in any direction you care to take off and explore. If you venture back from the seacoast you discover there are further tiers of bluffs to astound you. With a little more moisture and a little less exposure these upper cliffs have decorated themselves with walls of licorice ferns and pockets of ground orchids. The arbutus trees and shore pines have the habitat that perfectly suits their demands. There are sloping bare rock expanses clothed with moss and reindeer lichen that can only be appreciated by seeing directly the challenge of survival these ancient plants have mastered. They are entirely dependent on the measured release of rainwater runoff from the upland tree stands. The stark conditions of sea bluffs are a laboratory for survival of plant species which populate the margins.
The Stillwater Bluffs bear scars and other evidence of the ancient carving by ice-age glaciers long before the forests took root. The sea wind is now the chief sculptor at work and the trees facing the water are shaped with windswept gestures. Many lie dead to decay after succumbing to a major blow. The subject of wind brings us back to the prospect of logging on DL3040. It boils down to this. The quantity of ‘merchantable’ timber is small in terms of the 118 acre area because much is marginal as described above. Furthermore the experience of visiting the bluffs and the concept of a nature park must include the forested walk in and around the site as essential to the beauty to be found here. There are pockets of mature 2nd growth forest with supporting soils, but any attempt to log ‘selectively’ is doomed to creating a very compromised ecosystem at further risk of degrading over time. There is a wildlife habitat to consider in the forested areas which must be retained to provide a park which has a vestige of integrity. The intrusions required of even a selective logging operation would include haul road construction and disturbance of water runoff patterns. The tree felling and extraction would open up wind pockets and tunnels that could be disastrous in seasons following the logging operation. The problem of ‘blowdowns’ is well-known and predictable and it is obvious the trees here are shallow-rooted and vulnerable. Because DL3040 is in direct alignment with every southeast gale which roars up Georgia Strait, common sense alone can foresee the potential harm of partial logging. The presence of invasive species on DL3040 such as blackberry, broom, English ivy and others is minimal. Logging changes all that instantly. Standing within the existing forested areas are numerous ‘veteran’ Douglas firs and red cedars. They are of an age which pre-dates the damaging forest fires of the 1920s. They bear the scars of those fires and survived them. These few veterans are genuine historic artifacts of this district and should not be considered an asset to be liquidated. A nature park in this location must respect the fact that just a couple lifetimes ago the entire Stillwater peninsula was an awesome unbroken forest of majestic proportions. We must preserve the best of what little there is left.
Considering the many hundreds of acres already logged in recent years in the Stillwater area, this single remaining lot is not too much to preserve unspoiled if bio-diversity and community values are to be respected and considered important. A public nature park must strike a balance between a space for human recreation and for conservation of an environmentally sensitive area. Area C has a campground at Saltery Bay and a recreation site at Palm Beach. Stillwater Bluffs needs no further amenities than to simply be left alone; it cannot be improved upon. If that can be done it will be a rich reward for all who visit and for future generations to come. For the reasons stated above the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs takes the position that DL3040 is indivisible.