Trail builders seek official support for Skidegate-Queen Charlotte plan

Mark Walsh admirers a group of tall, twisting cedars along the first section of the proposed Chief Dempsey Collinson Memorial Heritage Trail. (Haida Gwaii Observer/File photo)

Mark Walsh admirers a group of tall, twisting cedars along the first section of the proposed Chief Dempsey Collinson Memorial Heritage Trail. (Haida Gwaii Observer/File photo)

It’s no walk in the park.

Trail builders Mark Walsh and Rémi Gauthier recently asked Queen Charlotte council to formally support a 10 km hiking trail they have started making along the forested slopes and ridge between Queen Charlotte and Skidegate.

Called the Chief Dempsey Collinson Memorial Heritage Trail, Walsh and Gauthier say it would be a popular hike, a living museum of Haida and non-Haida heritage features, and an effective way to protect the villages’ nearby forests and creeks from logging.

Much of the proposed trail is in the Haida Gwaii timber-supply area (TSA), though it also crosses through protected cedar stewardship areas. Walsh and Gauthier would like to see the unprotected areas along the trail removed from the TSA.

“The main objective here is to protect this whole area,” said Missy McDonald, a Skidegate band councillor who is helping Walsh and Gauthier bring their idea to the B.C./Haida Nation Solutions Table for consideration.

“People don’t understand the cultural significance to the Haidas for this area alone,” McDonald added, noting there are 54 culturally modified trees along the Crabapple/Gore Creek section that Walsh and Gauthier have marked so far. It is also where Mouse Woman / Kuugan Jaad is said to have got her power and shared it with other supernatural beings.

“It has to be saved,” McDonald said.

Mayor Greg Martin and fellow councillors chose to wait until June 4 before deciding on official village support for the project, giving them time to learn exactly how it might affect forestry tenures.

The TSA portion of the proposed route is expected to become part of a future Haida Gwaii Community Forest, which the village has supported already.

“I don’t want to see any logging in the watershed either,” said Mayor Martin, adding that the village may have more control if the TSA remains unchanged.

“It’s an issue of means and ends,” he said.

“This sounds great, I’d just like to see more info before we provide anything official,” said Councillor Devin Rachar.

Councillors said they would consult with Janine North, executive director of the Misty Isles Economic Development Society, before the next regular council meeting on June 4.

Walsh said he hoped the area would eventually get the same level of protection as the Damaxyaa Heritage Site / Conservancy and Dover Trail near Sandspit.

“We think it’s very important to get the same status for this whole forest behind town and Skidegate, and up over the top of the hill into the drainage of all the creeks that come down through town here,” he said.

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