I was fortunate to be able to take some long awaited vacation days last week, and one of the things I did was go to Cathedral Grove.
Cathedral Grove, for those who have never been, is located up-Island, near Cameron Lake on Highway 4 to Port Alberni.
I’ve always found going there to be an awe-inspiring experience. The towering stand of Douglas firs, some more than 800 years old (pre-dating Columbus landing in North America), are just so big, so still, so almost-alien in their antiquity and presence that it reaches a visceral place deep inside when you stand among them. Even the presence of fellow tourists can’t break the spell of the place. This old growth park feels unchanging in some ways, yet profoundly alive. One almost doesn’t appreciate how tall these giants are until one sees the trunks of the fallen, tossed like matchsticks among those still standing, most victims of the devastating windstorm of 1997 that toppled trees hundreds of years old like a giant playing pick up sticks. As they lie on their sides, straight as an arrow through the undergrowth, you can’t even see from one end of them to the other, they are so vast. Though these giants now lie forever still, new growth already sprouts, nursing from their wood. With any luck people will look up at them with the same awe with which I view their parents in another 800 years.
Going to Cathedral Grove gave me a new appreciation for the trees I take for granted every day right here, where we all live. While most are not of such antiquity, there are trees in the Municipality of North Cowichan and elsewhere in the Cowichan Valley that are worth preserving.
The City of Duncan has a heritage tree, or tree protection bylaw. But though one was first proposed for North Cowichan in 2016 when the old maple at the Cowichan Community Centre was controversially cut down, one has not yet been adopted by council. Council was again asked to consider such a bylaw in late 2017, and again in April of 2019. The Cowichan Valley Regional District has no such bylaw, either.
While there is a good-sized group of people now invested in looking at the future of North Cowichan’s municipal forest, it would be a shame if the tree protection or heritage tree bylaw got drowned out, as it is somewhat different in character, though no less important.