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Where Lies the Future of Richlands Forest Blocks?

 In the early 1900s, a large area of Creighton Valley in Cherryville was subdivided into 10 and 20 acre Crown land lots and promoted internationally as a fruit growing region by a Richlands land development company. Although some private property existed in the area before the subdivision, it seems that the company’s prospective investors had to apply for a land grant or purchase the new lots from the government. The entire Richlands saga is a fascinating part of Cherryville history, but that’s not really what this article is about. More precisely, the future of eight lots from this original Richlands subdivision, 80 acres of forested Crown land bounded by Mitchell Road and Puckett Road, has in recent months become a hot topic of conversation in Cherryville. 

Some 20 years ago, a group of concerned Cherryville residents worked on a Community Plan which included discussions between RDNO Area E director at the time, Eugene Foisy, and BC Lands, to protect this particular tract of land for green space and animal habitat. Now, 20 years later, many people have been surprised to learn that Tolko has expressed an interest in charting these properties for timber harvest. Local residents have expressed serious concern that Tolko harvesting is not a good fit for the future of this block. The contiguous properties in question are the only publicly accessible forested lots in an extensive rural residential area of Cherryville, used over many years for local hiking, horseback riding and other recreational activities. 

This winter Cherry Ridge Management Committee directors had meetings and communications with the Ministry of Forests, local forestry professionals, legal and financial counsel, RDNO (director Hank Cameron, alternate director Eugene Foisy) and other Cherryville community leaders (Advisory Planning Commission chair Clint Whitecotton, Community Club president Lynne Frerichs) to discuss alternative options for these properties in an active exchange of perspectives and proposals. At each event CRMC directors have consistently promoted the possibility of purchasing these Crown lots for ownership by the Cherryville community, to be managed by CRMC strictly for forest health as a long term natural resource for Cherryville residents. Support for this option has been very positive. 

Industrial logging on Crown land and private land in the past few years has severely constricted important wildlife corridors and habitat in the Richlands region. These properties represent a last chance to mitigate human impacts on local wildlife and inevitable human/wildlife conflict. 

Everyone recognizes that logging is a long established, essential service industry in BC. But there is a need for diversity in forest management options, not just one way to manage every forested area in our beautiful province. If this land can be purchased as private property by CRMC, any land management decisions would be entirely determined by the community, independent of provincial regulations which govern the Cherryville Community Forest and other government forestry tenures. Community ownership is the only way to guarantee local control. 

Acquiring and managing these properties is well within the mandate of CRMC. Directors have often discussed the advantages of buying land suitable for forestry education and research purposes; these properties would be an ideal asset for the community. Arranging financing for the purchase may be a more realistic possibility now than it was in the past, but supporters 

realize it will take considerable work to achieve this goal. “We would be adding to the work that started 20 plus years ago when Cherryville was not in a position to purchase this tract of land”, said past RDNO director Foisy. 

Monthly CRMC general meetings at the community hall have been disrupted in the current period of COVID-19 restrictions, at a time when CRMC directors urgently need to engage Cherryville residents in a critical decision making process. Does Cherryville think CRMC should continue to pursue the idea of purchasing these Richlands properties? Don’t wait until we can resume our monthly public meetings, whenever that may be. Let us know what you think now. 

Submitted by: Joyce Fleury
President Cherry Ridge Management Committee.

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