North Cowichan’s new council is looking for public input on a proposal to disallow the firing of guns in the Mount Tzouhalem and the Stoney Hill Forest Reserve areas.
The decision was made at council’s meeting on Nov. 21 due to growing conflicts between the increasing number of hiking and recreational users in those areas and hunters who are allowed to hunt there under existing municipal bylaws.
North Cowichan’s parks, forestry and recreation departments are currently implementing the parks and trails master plan and, as part of this program, hiking and biking trails are being sanctioned on Mount Tzouhalem where hunting is currently allowed, creating a conflict between the two types of users of the area.
According to a report to council from Shaun Mason, North Cowichan’s municipal forester, this conflict is expected to expand in upcoming years as the municipality proceeds with the mapping, sanctioning and signing of hiking, biking and equestrian trails in other portions of North Cowichan’s managed forest lands, including Mount Richards and Mount Prevost.
Mason said the municipality has also, through a new public road to Stoney Hill, allowed access to lands which previously were only accessed through private property.
“The Cowichan Valley Regional District has purchased lands and incorporated them into a regional park at Stoney Hill, complete with a parking lot, kiosk and washroom, which is an additional area where hunting is permitted; but in areas surrounding the park and not in it,” Mason said.
“As North Cowichan continues to enhance its forest reserve lands with new signage, expanded parking and additional amenities, the number of users will continue to increase, creating more opportunities for conflict between hunters and other recreation users.”
Mason said conservation officer Scott Norris provided input to the discussion and noted that Norris recognizes the importance of having areas available for people to hunt in North Cowichan.
However, Mason said that Norris also recognizes that the public heavily uses Mount Tzouhalem and Stoney Hill for recreation and didn’t feel that hunting was an appropriate activity within these two specific areas.
The Mount Tzouhalem area was estimated to have had approximately 80,000 visitors in 2017, and the Stoney Hill Regional Park had about 35,000 last year.
“Currently, hunting within these areas is minimal and does have safety concerns,” Mason said.
“Mr. Norris suggested that these areas should be considered for removal from the firearm discharge zone, and highlighted that hunting opportunities will still be available at other municipal properties.”
It’s expected that the public will be invited to provide input into this proposal in the coming months.