A BRIEF HISTORY OF STILLWATER BLUFFS
When you walk through the forest and along the cliffs and shoreline of Stillwater Bluffs it may seem like you have gone back in time to an untouched land. But, like all of Coastal British Columbia, the Bluffs has a long, long, history. We do not know all of that history, but it is clear that the First Nations have lived on what we now call the Sunshine Coast for millennia.
Through all that time, the land that we now call Stillwater Bluffs stayed much as it always had been – an ancient coastal forest overlooking the Salish Sea – until a little over 100 years ago, when the huge old trees began to feel the bite of saws and axes. Our timeline of the modern history of Stillwater Bluffs begins at the turn of the 20th century.
Sections of Stillwater Bluffs were logged. Fortunately, logging practices of that era left many standing trees, and silviculture programs (tree planting) as we know them now, did not exist. This allowed the bluffs to avoid becoming the monoculture we see in many modern tree farms/forests. See 1926 photos of state of regenerating forest on DL 3040
The government of British Columbia granted the area to Joseph Michael O’Brian for $344.00 (Crown Grant of DL 3040)
In May 1924, the northeast corner of DL3040 (about 8 hectares) was subdivided from DL3040 for residential use.
The earliest photos of the area show what Stillwater Bluffs looked like almost 100 years ago.
The Powell River Company (the original owner of the pulp mill in Powell River) acquired the land.
The Powell River Company was merged into BC’s then-largest forestry company, McMillan Bloedel Ltd.
Some logging took place on DL3040.
US-based forestry and real estate giant Weyerhaeuser acquired MacMillan Bloedel Ltd for US$2.45 billion.
The government of British Columbia established the Private Managed Forest Land Program (PMFL). To be eligible for classification under this program, the owner of the land must commit to use the property for production and harvesting of timber and associated forest management activities.
Local residents, concerned about the implications of PMFL on their treasured wilderness areas, formed a group that would eventually become the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs Association (FOSBA).
Island Timberlands, a Vancouver Island forestry company, acquired the land from Weyerhaeuser.
The government of BC published its Sunshine Coast Sensitive Ecosystems Inventory (SEI), a project undertaken to identify rare and fragile terrestrial ecosystems. The SEI is a "flagging" tool that identifies sensitive ecosystems and provides scientific information to governments and others trying to maintain biodiversity in the region. A “Sensitive Herbaceous” ecosystem was identified at Stillwater Bluffs.
The group of concerned citizens took the name Friends of Stillwater Bluffs. The group asked Island Timberlands General Manager of Planning and Forestry (Bill Waugh) about the company’s plans for harvesting and development of the area.
On March 21, under the banner “Stripped Naked”, people gathered to protest logging at Canoe Route and Eagle River, two Island Timberlands PMFL sites adjacent to Stillwater Bluffs.
On June 23, Nicholas Simons, the MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, visited Stillwater Bluffs to see what the protests were about. Photo
September 23rd - Following MLA Simons’ visit, the first documented requests that a parks acquisition fund should be started were made.
The Powell River Regional District (renamed qathet Regional District in 2018) completed a Parks and Greenspace Plan. Stillwater Bluffs was very well represented at public engagement and was identified as one of six priority sites for acquisition. The plan recommended “developing a parks and greenspace acquisition strategy for Stillwater Bluffs and Eagle River.” The Regional District adopted this recommendation and wrote it into Powell River Regional District Area C Bylaw 467.
The Regional District passed Bylaw No. 439, Regional Parks Conversion-Establishment. This Bylaw now allowed the RD to start a park tax. “The maximum amount that may be requisitioned annually for this service shall be $0.125 per $1,000.00 net taxable value of land and improvements in the service area. (BL439.3 – Aug24-17)”
This year marked a major turning point for Stillwater Bluffs, as Island Timberlands made its logging plans known, and FOSBA geared up in response.
In February, the Regional District formed a Parks and Greenspace Implementation Advisory Committee.
Early in the year, local residents spotted an Island Timberlands truck at Stillwater Bluffs, with timber cruisers marking trees with paint. FOSBA requested a meeting with Island Timberlands to discuss the company’s logging plans.
On March 27, three members of the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs went on a walk-through of the Bluffs with Wayne French from Island Timberlands. He indicated that the company would have a ground crew marking and flagging for tree removal and road building within the next two weeks.
On April 10, a delegation from FOSBA presented this new information from Island Timberlands at a meeting of the Powell River Regional District Board. FOSBA requested that the Regional District "please communicate with I.T. management that the RD is considering DL3040 for park – and please stop any onsite operations pending further development". FOSBA argued that unless the Regional District formally made clear its desire to preserve the forest, Island Timberlands would proceed immediately with a timber harvest. After an initial reluctance to become involved, the Regional District agreed to put its desire for preservation in a formal letter to Island Timberlands.
On April 12, More than 50 people came out to Stillwater Bluffs and hiked in support of the area becoming a regional park. Several members of the Ancient Forest Alliance joined the walk, and FOSBA and the Ancient Forest Alliance agreed to jointly ask Island Timberlands to hold off logging while negotiations for the purchase of the land took place. The two groups also agreed to ask the Provincial Government to put up some money as part of a Parks Acquisition Fund.
On April 12, the Regional District formally requested that Island Timberlands cease all operations on DL 3040 (Stillwater Bluffs) while the District entered into negotiations to acquire it for a regional park.
On June 12, the President of Island Timberlands responded to the Regional District’s letter. "Once the regional district has considered its budgetary constraints and financing timelines, and has formulated an acquisition proposal including offer price and closing date, we are more than wiling to meet to discuss the proposal in detail."
FOSBA met with the Regional District’s Parks and Greenspace Implementation Advisory Committee to check on the status of development of an acquisition fund.
The Regional District completed a Draft Parkland Acquisition Strategy.
The Regional District completed a Regional Trails Plan. Stillwater Bluffs was included in the list of “Top 7 Favorite Trails” and “Top 7 Most Frequently used trails”.
In May 2017, FOSBA became a registered non-profit society.
The Regional District adopted the Parkland Aquisition Strategy.
Island Timberlands and Timberwest (another major BC forestry company) signed an “affiliation agreement”. The two companies immediately formed an umbrella company, Mosaic Forest Management, to manage the lands they owned or controlled.
November 8th - FOSBA coordinated an art show in the city of Powell River. The show raised over $10,000.00. Future fundraising events were planned, but these plans had to be put on hold when Covid-19 safety regulations ended public gatherings.
The qathet Regional District enacted a Parkland Acquisition Reserve fund. Our understanding of the fund was that it was set to raise approximately $183,000 per year.
The qathet Regional District Strategic Plan established a goal to cultivate the protection of parks and greenspaces.
In June 2021, FOSBA launched the Stillwater Bluffs BioSearch as a way to compile an inventory of plant and animal species at Stillwater Bluffs. The BioSearch, hosted on the iNaturalist website, allowed individuals to add information to a scientifically recognized database.
In early December 2021, the Finance Committee of the qathet Regional District recommended that 50% of the funds raised for Parkland Acquisition be diverted to the District’s tax requisition. FOSBA initiated and led a write-in campaign in support of keeping the funds for their originally intended purpose. The campaign was successful, and at the Regional Board meeting on December 15, a motion to apportion 50% of the parkland acquisition fund toward tax requisition was unanimously defeated.
In the early summer, the qathet Regional District began working on a Parks and Trails Master Plan.
On July 10, a walk-through of the Bluffs by several FOSBA directors led to the addition of almost 100 entries to the BioSearch database, pushing it well over the required minimum of 50 entries to qualify for official recognition.