In this time of social distancing, it is important to remember that—providing we act responsibly—we can still go outdoors and enjoy the Comox Valley’s amazing backyard. We live in a region blessed with stunning natural beauty and some wonderful nature parks, most of which remain open to local visitors. The benefits to our mental health of exploring our natural spaces are enormous and this is a great opportunity to also learn about the 13 sites in the region that are protected forever thanks to conservation efforts of the Comox Valley Land Trust (CVLT). Of these, over half are publicly accessible, the others being conservation areas on privately held residential lands.
“Going for a walk in nature can be key to maintaining good mental health,” said CVLT Executive Director Tim Ennis. “Right now is a great time to reflect upon and appreciate the hard work of the many local non-profit organizations pulling together with local government partners to protect key natural spaces in the Comox Valley.”
Ruth Masters Greenway in the CVRD is just one example of a nearby park worth exploring. The 14.7-acre site was donated by Ruth Masters to the Comox Valley Regional District in 2004, with CVLT holding the conservation covenant over the property. Forested trails run through the park, allowing for scenic views of the Puntledge River as well as opportunities to see rare plants as well as wildlife (the greenway is an important habitat for many forest-dependent species of birds and other animals). CVLT’s role is to uphold Ruth’s wish that the land remains in a natural state in perpetuity.
Residents living in East Courtenay and Comox have easy access to Hurford Hill Nature Park. Robert and Adela Smith donated this 26.5-acre park to the City of Courtenay in 1996. With its numerous trails for hiking and recreation, Hurford Hill Nature Park is home to many native plants and animal species and protects important salmon spawning and rearing habitats. To uphold the Smiths’ wish that the site be maintained forever as a nature park, CVLT holds a conservation covenant registered on the land title.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Village of Cumberland is requesting that access to the Cumberland Community Forest be by locals only. The forest is a 272-acre community park that was acquired by the Village with funds raised by the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS) in several blocks over time. The land is protected in perpetuity by a covenant held by CVLT. The park’s extensive trail system is popular with bikers, hikers, walkers, and runners.
Both the CCFS and CVLT are currently raising funds to purchase and protect an additional 200 acres of riparian and upland forest on either side of Perseverance Creek—areas that will otherwise be logged. If you would like to donate, please visit their websites.
“We can’t take the natural beauty of the Comox Valley for granted,” said Ennis. “If we want to continue to create and protect more areas for future generations to enjoy, we have to actively participate in preserving them today.”