Public access lacking for lake, says Stewards

Sarah Simpson, Citizen News

Published: Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A high coliform count generally prevents swimmers from dipping into Quamichan Lake but there's a host of other recreational opportunities to be had there says Quamichan Stewards chair Roger Hart, including canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, and fishing.

That is, if people could actually get to the lake.

The Stewards recently completed a lake management plan with funds from Environment Canada that identified the need to make the lake more valuable and useable to people in North Cowichan.

Rowers practice on Quamichan Lake. The Stewards group says one of the issues with getting more people to enjoy the spot for activities like boating is making public access easier.

Another cash infusion has allowed the group to continue that work.

"We have gotten more money over the last 12 months to look at various aspects of implementing that management plan and one that we've been working on with North Cowichan is improving public access to the lake," Hart said.

On paper, there are around a dozen public access points to the lake, he explained. Reality tells a different story.

"With the exception of Art Mann Park and Stirling Ridge, most of them are simply the end of a road and there's no way of getting to the lake from them and most of them you can't even see the lake because of the growth of willows and the like," he explained. "We've identified two places where in the short term we think we can improve things.

One would see an ecologically friendly gravel trail for bird watchers, canoeists and kayakers at Martin Place (off Stamps Road) and the other would see the fishing pier at Stirling Ridge Park improved to be a year-round facility.

While North Cowichan's parks and recreation commission has endorsed the plan subject to consultation with immediate neighbours, it still needs to get by council.

"Should council agree in principle to the idea, the first step is to get community/resident feedback on the Quamichan Stewards proposal to formalize the Martin Road end as a trail to the lake," North Cowichan Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Mansueti said Tuesday.

"A report evaluating the responses, concerns and suggestions would be brought to the parks and recreation commission for further direction."

Hart hopes it won't be a problem.

"We have been working with Ernie and he's been very supportive. We're hoping that this will go through," he said, noting the cost to the municipality would be negligible.

"My understanding is that we're able to offer to provide the materials and to provide the labour so we'd just need their permission to go ahead," he said. "They can do things like signage and so forth, which we would be very grateful for."

The work of the Quamichan Stewards is not lost on the municipality, Mansueti said.

"They have increased the visibility of the Quamichan watershed and promoted recreation and educational activities," he said. "Their initiatives to improve accesses and to restore riparian areas is a benefit to the health of the lake while providing more recreational opportunities for our residents."

Visit to learn more about the projects undertaken by Quamichan Stewards and to find ways to offer support.