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SRD buys valuable piece of real estate

Cortes Island forest activists gain protection for Whaletown Commons old-growth

Campbell River Mirror - Kristen Douglas, September 2, 2014

The Strathcona Regional District has agreed to purchase a hotly debated piece of property for nearly $1 million.

After five years of negotiations with Island Timberlands, the owner of the 70-acre greenspace on Cortes Island, the property is expected to soon belong to the regional district.

Island Timberlands accepted an offer of $839,000 for the property, known as Whaletown Commons, which is appraised at $826,000 ($475,000 for the timber and $351,000 for the land).

The Whaletown Commons Society, a non-profit which has been trying to secure the land for more than 20 years, is partnering with the regional district and has agreed to chip in roughly $73,000 towards the purchase with its share raised through local donations.

Cortes Director Noba Anderson told her constituents in a newsletter in June that the regional district has more than $571,000 in community parks reserve funds that it’s prepared to contribute towards the purchase.

Anderson said she’s pleased the regional district was able to secure the land for Cortes residents to enjoy for years to come.

“I am beyond delighted that this long-standing community park priority has finally become a reality,” Anderson said in a news release. “The purchase of Whaletown Commons is a rare opportunity to secure 70 acres of green-space in the centre of a neighbourhood, and I am honoured to be part of making this happen.”

The Whaletown Commons Society, which was formed with the sole purpose of keeping the greenspace as parkland, wants to use the property to create a community park in Whaletown and to provide a spot for potential re-location of some of the community’s public assembly buildings.

The greenspace is a valuable piece of land because of its high forest and riparian values, salmon-bearing Burnside Creek, and it provides a natural habitat for wolves and other animals.

It also connects three Whaletown sub-neighbourhoods and is set to become the first formal and permanent park in the Whaletown/Gorge area.

Anderson assured Cortes Islanders last month that the regional district has no interest in developing the property.

“It is important to underline that this park would be purchased as a green space – and a green space only,” Anderson wrote on Cortes’ online site, Tideline, in June. “What becomes of it in the future will be up to the community and the limitations of the covenant (on the land).”

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