Avatar Boardwalk Nears Completion

Published: August 2, 2017
Posted in: Media Release
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For Immediate Release

After 4 years of hard work, the Avatar Grove boardwalk near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island is expected to be completed by the end of this coming long weekend. 

This weekend a team of volunteers with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) will undertake a final stint of boardwalk construction in the Avatar Grove. Volunteers will build a new platform, stairs, steps, and walkways, and install signage, finishing the major project. Located only 20 minutes from Port Renfrew, the Avatar Grove is home to one of the most spectacular and easily accessible stands of monumental old-growth trees in BC and has become among BC’s most popular old-growth forest tourism destinations, featured in numerous national and international media outlets. The completion of the boardwalk will enhance the public’s ability to explore the incredible ancient forest that helped the town rebrand itself as the “Tall Trees Capital of Canada.”

See a photo gallery showcasing the boardwalk construction from this past weekend: http://bit.ly/2vkskEN

“We’re really excited to finally complete the Avatar Grove Boardwalk after years of hard work involving hundreds of volunteers. This was a major undertaking for a small organization like ours but for many of those involved, it has become a labour of love. We now have a kilometre-long trail with sections of high quality boardwalk for visitors with diverse abilities to enjoy one of Canada’s most magnificent ancient forests,” stated Avatar Boardwalk Coordinator TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “We are grateful to the Pacheedaht First Nation, who donated the first batch of wood, followed by the support of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, hundreds of volunteers and donors, and many generous sponsors.”

“Avatar Grove” is a popular nickname for the Nuu-cha-nulth Pacheedaht name of “T’l’oqwxwat” and is in the unceded territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation. It was protected by the BC government in 2012 after an intense two-year public awareness campaign led by the AFA in partnership with the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.

The Ancient Forest Alliance began construction of the boardwalk in 2013 to protect the tree roots and understory vegetation from foot traffic, enhance visitor safety and access, and support the local eco-tourism economy. The organization’s plan was to finish construction by the fall of 2016, but hurricane force winds during an October 2016 storm knocked down dozens of trees, damaging the trail and boardwalk. Since then, the AFA has been working to clear and fix the boardwalk, and has made improvements upon its original design.

Since the Avatar Grove was protected and its boardwalk constructed, it has allowed visitors from all over the world to discover BC’s unique and magnificent old-growth forests.

“The Avatar Grove’s real significance is that it serves as an example to other communities that protecting old-growth forests benefits the economy by hugely bolstering local businesses and jobs”, Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance stated. “In helping to revitalize Port Renfrew’s economy, it has clearly counteracted the old, false narrative that saving old-growth forests harms the local economy. The Avatar Grove and its boardwalk have been the most important catalyst for BC’s ancient forest movement in recent times and have helped to shape the fate of endangered forests across the province.”

Avatar Grove has prompted the former logging town of Port Renfrew to rebrand itself for old-growth forest tourism, landing the town its nickname the “Tall Trees Capital of Canada.” The town is also located near the province’s most popular ancient forest destinations including the Central Walbran Valley, Big Lonely Doug (Canada’s 2nd largest Douglas-fir), Red Creek Fir (the world’s largest Douglas-fir), Harris Creek Spruce (an enormous Sitka Spruce), San Juan Spruce (previously Canada’s largest spruce until the top broke off last year), Eden Grove, and Jurassic Grove. They attract hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world, strengthening the economy of southern Vancouver Island. The Ancient Forest Alliance is encouraging people who visit the area to stay in local accommodations, buy food and groceries in local stores, and camp in the Pacheedaht-run campground to help boost the local economy with eco-tourism dollars.

The Ancient Forest Alliance would like to thank the Pacheedaht First Nation, BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (Recreation Sites and Trails Division), Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Patagonia Elements, Sitka Society for Conservation, Public Conservation Assistance Fund, Port Renfrew Marina & RV Park, and the hundreds of individual donors and volunteers for their support in building the boardwalk!

More Information on BC's Old-Growth Forests

Old-growth forests are vital to sustaining unique endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations. On BC’s southern coast, satellite photos show that at least 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have been logged, including well over 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. Only about 8% of Vancouver Island’s original, productive old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas. Old-growth forests – with trees up to 2,000 years old – are a non-renewable resource under BC’s system of forestry, where second-growth forests are re-logged every 50 to 100 years, never to become old-growth again.

The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC government to implement a comprehensive, science-based plan to protect all of BC’s remaining endangered old-growth forests and to also ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry.

Ultimately driven by Avatar Grove’s economic significance, various chambers of commerce, starting with the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, have called for increased protection of BC’s ancient forests. The BC Chamber of Commerce, BC’s premier business lobby representing 36,000 businesses, passed a resolution last May, calling on the province to expand protection for BC’s old-growth forests to support the economy, after a series of similar resolutions passed by the Port Renfrew, Sooke, and WestShore Chambers of Commerce. See: www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1010

Both the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), representing the mayors, city and town councils, and regional districts across BC, and Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), representing Vancouver Island local governments, passed a resolution last year calling on the province to protect Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests by amending the 1994 land use plan. See: https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1057

The Private and Public Workers of Canada (PPWC), formerly the Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada, representing thousands of sawmill and pulp mill workers across BC, recently passed a resolution calling for an end to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island. See: http://ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1100

See maps and stats on the remaining old-growth forests on BC’s southern coast at: www.ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php

In order to placate public fears about the loss of BC’s endangered old-growth forests, the previous BC Liberal government’s PR-spin typically over-inflated the amount of remaining old-growth forests by including hundreds of thousands of hectares of marginal, low productivity forests growing in bogs and at high elevations with smaller, stunted trees, in with the productive old-growth forests, where the large trees grow (and where most logging takes place). See a rebuttal to some of the BC government’s PR-spin and stats about old-growth forests towards the BOTTOM of the webpage: https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1052

Those who are interested in volunteering at the August 5th- 7th construction weekend to help complete the Avatar Grove boardwalk are encouraged to contact the Ancient Forest Alliance by emailing info@ancientforestalliance.org or calling (250) 896-4007.

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