Innovative plan presented to Queen Charlotte council

  • Mar. 20, 2009 1:00 p.m.

What do food, fuel wood and fitness have in common? They are all part a plan to reinvigorate land and community by getting people outside with their families. Charlie and Barbara Mack of Queen Charlotte are forming a new society called Skidegate Inlet Food, Fuelwood and Fitness (SKIFFF) and they presented their ideas, dubbed the Elder/Berry project, to the Queen Charlotte Council on Mar.16. The couple was seeking a letter from council in support of their application for a Crown Land lease, which overlaps with the far western portion of QC’s municipal boundaries. The two hope to manage the dense second growth forest at the 46 hectare site west of the old Kagan Bay log sort by careful thinning wood for fuel. The openings created by the thinning would encourage berry growth for food, and trails would be built to wind through the area allowing for other recreational uses like hiking and biking. They also hope to develop an archery course, which could be used by families, schools and tourists. Further plans include rowboats to encourage low carbon recreation, potato patches, a picnic shelter and more. The idea arose out of the Mack’s efforts with the Elder Wood program, introduced at Skidegate Days last summer with cross cut saw competitions. Young people were encouraged to cut wood for needy elders year-round after this event. Mr. Mack says everyone knows firewood warms people twice, with the cutting and splitting heating one up while outside and the fire warming the inside of the house. But cutting wood as a community service warms your insides again, he says, when you bring the wood to the person and then again when you see the smoke coming out of that person’s chimney. “It warms you four or five times what regular wood does,” he says. Mr. Mack says the project will start with building woodsheds so the firewood can be properly dried. The Macks have already spoken with several groups while seeking support, including the Council of the Haida Nation, the Centre for Non-timber Forest Products at Royal Roads University in Sooke, the Haida Forest Guardians and the Ministry of Forests. Ms Mack said everyone has been supportive, especially the Royal Roads contact who thinks this kind of project is exactly the type of alternative forestry use communities need. The project has the potential to provide baseline data for measuring the effectiveness of thinning on berry patch development. “We see it as a vision of restoration: of the forest and the spirit,” they write in the proposal found in the council package. At the meeting, Councillor Kris Olsen asked whether the Macks were aware of how people presently use that area. He said it’s the main route for getting to Slatechuck Mountain where people get argillite. The Macks said they were aware of those uses and more, like clam digging and hunting. They think their plans complement all of these activities, as many people drive out in big trucks. “People can load up with firewood too,” said Mr. Mack. The Macks say that members of the society would help with the wood cutting, along with school groups. The school groups could benefit from practising skills learned in outdoor summer camps throughout the year. At the end of their presentation, Mayor Carol Kulesha said the Macks were not ready for council’s support. “You need to find out more before you are ready,” she said, suggesting the pair talk with the village’s administrator regarding the process to apply for a Crown Land lease. Mayor Kulesha said there are a number of agencies the Macks need to speak with before it comes back to the village.