The Avatar Grove boardwalk project near Sooke will finally be finished construction after four years and many volunteer hours.
It will include the finishing touches, volunteers with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) will be building a new platform, stairs, steps, and walkways, and install signage, on the major project.
“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,” said Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance.“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 B.C.’s ancient forest movement in recent times and have helped to shape the fate of endangered forests across the province.”
The Avatar Grove, located about 20 minutes from Port Renfrew, is home to one of the most spectacular and easily accessible stands of monumental old-growth trees in B.C. and has become among B.C.’s most popular old-growth forest tourism destinations.
The AFA explained that old-growth forests are vital to sustaining endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations.
“It’s a magical landscape,” said TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) boardwalk coordinator. “You have ancient Red Cedars and Douglas Firs that can be over 500 years old with trunks as wide as 14ft in diametre, with huge alien shaped burrows growing off the trees, and moss and furns all around.”
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.
“Port Renfrew has branded itself as the tall-tree capital of Canda so the more accessable that Avatar Grove is to visitors the more people will come and visit the town and maybe stay at a bed and breakfast. It shows that protection of old growth forests can actually be good for the economy rather than hinder it.”
Old-growth forests have trees up to 2,000 years old and are a non-renewable resource under B.C.’s system of forestry, where as second-growth forests are re-logged every 50 to 100 years, never become old-growth again.
Watt explained that the Avatar Grove was originally an area that was supposed to be logged, but now it has been protected and will help the economy in Port Renfrew by increasing ecotourism.
“I’m excited every time I go there, and the almost the minute we get a project finshed a group of poeple walks by and says thanks so there’s a real tangable reward in building these different projects. I’m excited to experience this ancient forest first-hand and have an enjoyable time while doing it,” said Watt. “It’s like a window back in time.”