Cathedral Grove
British Columbia

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The Protest

  Big Trees Destroyed   The Treesit  
  The Parking Lot   FROG "Ribbits"  
  Friends of Cathedral Grove (FROG)   Habitat Encroachment  

FROG "Ribbits"

The government of British Columbia (BC) has ignored the many efforts to save Cathedral Grove from serious damage in the form of a huge new parking lot. As a result, the Friends of Cathedral Grove (FROG) decided to register a number of frog "ribbits" to protest. The parking lot was to be built next to the Cameron River in the wetlands home of the seldom seen Red legged Frog, a species that is nationally listed as one of special concern and is featured in the BC Frogwatch (right). FROG wants the BC government to conduct a scientific study as required by federal policies outlined in the Wetlands Environmental Assessment Guideline. Frogs are sensitive indicators of environmental degradation and, given their vanishing numbers worldwide, there clearly is a major problem of habitat loss.


Red legged Frog
British Columbia Frogwatch


Migration of the Red legged Frog
Fabric art by Linda MacDonald

"People are fascinated by frogs and toads, and these little creatures can tell us a great deal without uttering so much as a 'ribbit.' In their wetland homes, frogs are very sensitive to changes in the environment" BC Frogwatch.

The Red legged Frog (Rana aurora) is vanishing from its native range due to habitat degradation caused by old growth forest destruction and urban development. In California a sub species is listed as endangered. Artist Linda MacDonald created a fabric work (left) that illustrates the frog's plight. The scene is based on a notorious incident that occurred near San Francisco, when a snealey wetlands consultant who worked for a greedy developer was caught at night secretly removing endangered Red legged Frogs from a wetlands area with high development value.

Cathedral Grove is located on the estuary of the Cameron River, in a floodplains area that has already been severely damaged by the clearcut logging of the valley and by highway expansion. FROG member David Clough has recorded the debris jams and flooding caused by land slides and erosion: Fish Habitat Assessment.


Don't Pave Over Paradise The forest ecosystem of Cathedral Grove is being degraded by unregulated peripheral clearcut logging and by park mismanagement. Stop converting rare ancient forests into stump fields.
Mt. Cokley Bypass To solve the long term traffic and environmental problems of Cathedral Grove, a bypass must be constructed for Highway 4 so that it does not bisect the Grove but goes over Mt. Cokley, an already degraded landscape, massively clearcut logged.
Beaufort Wildlife Corridor Cathedral Grove is part of the Beaufort Range – the most important wildlife corridor and winter wildlife habitat on Vancouver Island, yet most of it is classified as private industrial forest land and therefore has no environmental protection.

Red legged Frog, Cathedral Grove
Photo: Richard Boyce


Red legged Frog (Rana aurora)
Drawing by Peg Steunenberg

National Designation In 2007 Cathedral Grove was shortlisted as one of Canada's Seven Wonders. In addition, the Grove needs federal protection as a First Nations heritage site.
Part of Our Soul We must choose a new sustainable path to save our most irreplaceable biological habitats, the heritage of humankind.
Park Master Plan Needed No decisions should be made without a public process to determine the best long term ecological policies.
Low Impact Parking To address the traffic safety issue in Cathedral Grove, at the most a low impact and moderate expansion of parking facilities should be considered.


Complete Protection A new "Green" identity for Cathedral Grove requires major changes including the outlawing of logging in the few surviving stands of old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cameron Valley.
Forestry Center Educate the public and tourists about the consequences of industrial forestry in BC.

In his riparian report, D. R. Clough advises that the ecological health of the big trees depends on the exchange of nutrients provided by the flood plains and river drainages which are part of a complex climax ecosystem habitat that supports the cutthroat (below) and other fish.

Green slug, Cathedral Grove
Photo: Jonathan Dubois


Coastal cutthroat trout typical of the variety found in Cameron River which runs through Cathedral Grove
Photo: D. R. Clough


Right: Cathedral Grove Fish Habitat Assessment by D. R. Clough, 2005 (Click to read pdf report)

"This area is a massive floodplain of fish accessible habitat. It is highly sensitive to alteration through roads, logging or trails.

It should not be further developed and needs restoration of existing works if it is to continue to support fish habitat within the ecosystem that they require."


The assessment by David Clough is bases on scientific ananlysis (left). He explains: "This report was written as a response to concerns over lack of fish habitat information on the plans for construction of highways and parking areas in Cathedral Grove. As a biologist who has worked on assessment and restoration of stream habitats on Vancouver Island for 25 years, I have witnessed many negative environmental impacts to the Park and area drainages over the years. My level of concern has been raised ever since the early 1980’s with the slides from the logged off east slope of the valley resulting in sediment loads, debris jams and flooding. This was followed by indiscriminate BC Highways work on the bridges, shoulders and riparian zone that damaged Park ecology."


Letter to the Editor, 2 January 2004
Times Colonist Newspaper (Click to enlarge)


FROG Concensus A parking lot is not the solution: it increases the danger to public safety and is ecologically destructive. Traffic calming must be implemented with stop signs and a 50 km zone. Protect the Park, not the parking lot! Implement legislation so that trees older than British Columbia cannot be cut.
Forestry: Where Our History Is Clearcut Establish a Museum of Industrial Clearcutting so that people can learn about deforestation and other consequences of the relentlessly increasing global demand for wood products.
Just Leave the Trees Alone Leave the fish alone. Leave the river alone. Leave this picturesque Park alone, small as it is. Less than 0.5 per cent of this primeval forest type, characterized by giant firs, hemlocks and cedars, survives across the Georgia Basin landscape it once dominated. In other words, more than 99.5 per cent has been extirpated by loggers, developers, road builders, housing contractors, shopping malls and, of course, parking lots.
Weyerhaeuser Logging Road Convert the ugly dead end road into a one way parallel parking lot. This will protect the present Park from further windthrow and save the last intact portions of old growth in the Cameron Valley.


Above and right: The "Hollow Tree" in Cathedral Grove
Many thousands of photographs by park visitors have been taken of a big tree with a large cavity. Like the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park, it is especially popular to pose inside of so as to give a sense of the scale of the gigantic tree. Ultimately the impact by so many people trampling the roots will damage the tree.


The BC government's greenwash report on Cathedral Grove, pompously entitled the "MacMillan Provincial Park Safety Enhancement Project," was released with great fanfare during a public meeting on 10 November 2005. The Ministry of Environment disingenuously claimed their carefully crafted project to be an ecological vision of "a clean, healthy and naturally diverse environment that enriches people's lives, now and in the future." This empty rhetoric did not fool the public. Many of those who attended the meeting asked the obvious question: "Where is the vision in the government's plan to pave over more of Cathedral Grove?"

What is needed is a comprehensive plan that will preserve the big trees for generations to come. Instead, what the public got was the same old rotten parking lot scheme packaged in brand new spin. FROG rejected the government's "vision" as a public relations scam and vowed to continue to defend the big trees at the heart of one of the rare and rapidly vanishing ecosystems on Earth. That the parking lot is to be constructed by cutting down giant trees, for the use of people who wish to see BC's famed big trees, is left out of the government's devious calculations.


Tanny, Cathedral Grove, 2005
Photo: Phil Carson


Letters to the Editor, 26 February 2004
Times Colonist (Click to enlarge)


A Plea from Europe: Save the Trees Please do not make the mistake of European countries: there are no more ancient forests left here because of the clearcutting period that occurred more than 500 years ago.
Cathedral Grove Must Be Protected The lovely patch of old growth timber is too precious and fragile to withstand commercialization as a tourist attraction nor further crowding by logging. This treasure must be guarded.
Cathedral Grove Deserves a Fresh Look Loaded logging trucks come through the park heading towards Parksville. Rarely do they stick to the posted 60 km/h speed limit. Why cut more forest, cause more blowdown, when a simpler solution is right there at hand?

Cathedral Grove was voted one of Canada's top seven "Places of Wonder" in 2007. To most it is inconceivable that this tiny park continues to be besieged by unscrupulous corporations and industrial logging on all sides. A German wrote to the Times Colonist newspaper (left) to chastize the BC government for its disregard of the native big trees: "please take a moment and think about what people outside would think of a nation that is proclaiming to be a nature paradise and invites nature lovers from all over the world, but is in fact devastating its unique capital."


Visitor in front of the most famous old growth tree survivor
Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A sign at the entrance to Cathedral Grove proclaims it to be a priceless nature treasure (right). Were this truly meant, the government would listen to the FROG ribbits.


Perhaps visitors to Cathedral Grove should be educated about what rapacious industrial logging has done to the magnificent ancient forests of Vancouver Island. Park visitors who drive to the West Coast see for themselves the horrifying result of massive old growth deforestation and degradation caused by logging corporations run amok. Apart from greenwash tokenism, no measures have been taken to ensure either the longterm health of BC's forests or the livelihood of the communities who depend on them.

Sign: "This old growth is priceless"
Cathedral Grove (MacMilllan Park)


Greeting the Methuselahs, Cathedral Grove
Photo: Alana MacDougal


Don't Touch the Park Over 10,000 signatures opposing development in Cathedral Grove have been presented to the BC government since 2000, when the proposal for a parking lot was first made. Loggers, truck drivers, local government, biologists, and citizens voiced one united viewpoint. Resolve issues of safety with an alternate route for the main highway.
Appeal to BC Parks You are in a position to speak out, to identify threats, to propose solutions. We are in desperate need of a new more enlightened form of management in this confined and threatened corridor. Most important is for BC Parks to work with the public for options that benefit its needs.
Park Defense Issues Public concerns have to be listened to. The heart of the safety problem is too many logging trucks taking raw logs out of our communities for foreign export.


"More facts on firs" (Click to enlarge)
Times Colonist, 21 August 2001


Measuring a big Douglas fir
Times Colonist, 21 August 2001


Ancient Douglas fir tree, Cathedral Grove, 2008
Photo: E. Wolff

A sign at the entrance to Cathedral Grove was erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (below) to tribute the Scottish botanist who identified the giant fir native to the Northwest Coast. It is David Douglas to whom the species owes its common name (right). From the time of its European "discovery," the giant fir was exploited as one of the great timber trees of the world, beginning with spars that were exported from "spar forests" on Vancouver Island to Britain as ship masts for the Royal Navy. Today the primaeval Douglas fir ecosystem is almost extinct.


According to the internationally renowned big tree expert A. C. Carder, the Douglas fir is the world's tallest coniferous tree, taller even than the Sequoia sempervirens (coastal redwood). In a letter to the Times Colonist newspaper (above left), he says that the reason why this fact is not widely known is that the forest industry has destroyed all the finest stands of Douglas fir. From its origins in the mid 19th century the colonial BC government has accomodated the forest industry as its primary economic generator, a situation that continues today even when most of the lucrative old growth Douglas fir has been exterminated.

Rather than legislate for the protection of the surviving big trees, the BC Ministry of Environment produces a smokescreen, setting up ineffectual "natural heritage" programs such as the BC Conservation Data Centre which houses the BC Register of Big Trees. Like the National Register for Big Trees founded in 1940 by the industry driven American Forestry Association, the BC Register was set up in 1886 by the BC Forestry Association, ie. the wood products industry, the very agents that have caused the annihilation of the big trees by unrelenting commercial greed.

David Douglas sign (Click to enlarge)
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)


Cathedral Trail and David Douglas signs
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)

A more appropriate acknowledgement of the heritage of Cathedral Grove would be a tribute to the First Peoples who stewarded the big trees for centuries before they were "discovered" by David Douglas. Another sign warns that "Cathedral Grove is an old forest," susceptible to root and stem diseases that may cause some big trees to die and fall without warning (right). A much greater cause of blowdown is the clearcut logging of the buffer forests in the Cathedral Grove Watershed by unethical corporations.


The interpretive signage at Cathedral Grove contains no information about the commercial over exploitation of the Douglas fir that has led to the extermination of the giant tree. It is an irony not lost on the Friends of Cathedral Grove that the surviving big trees they are fighting to preserve are located in what officially is called MacMillan Park, named for one of the world's most prolific destroyers of primaeval forests. And while Canada commemorates David Douglas, it turns a blind eye to the continued destruction of the rare and endangered native firs which are his namesakes.

Sign: Old forest warning (Click to enlarge)
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)





Protests by environmental group have unfortunately failed to stop logging companies clearcutting trees right up to the park boundary, thereby threatening the park ecosystem and destroying the wind barrier so necessary to prevent future blowdowns. 




Child and ancient cedar, Cathedral Grove, 2006
Photo: Christine Kovacs


Another disingenuous sign in Cathedral Grove erected by BC Parks is "Sensitive to Human Visitation" (right). "The plants that grow here are very sensitive. Each foot print and every hand that touches these creations leaves a mark. . . This forest began its life more than 1,000 years ago. Only your attention and care can keep it vital, beautiful and a treasure for others to enjoy." If the BC Ministry of Environment truly cared about the sensitivity of the ecosystem it would take action to criminalize the clearcutting that is destroying the Cathedral Grove Watershed. It would not be proposing a five acre parking lot on the sensitive floodplain that requires the cutting down of big trees within the tiny park. The government has commissioned dozens of scientific reports on Cathedral Grove, yet scant evidence exists that these have helped to protect the endangered ecosystem.


"Sensitve to Human Visitation" (Click to enlarge)
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)


Sign: "Butt Rot" (Click to enlarge)
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)

The "Forests: Our Future" sign in Cathedral Grove (right) proclaims the importance of the old growth ecosystems. Yet it is no different from industry greenwash. Words do not cover up the ecocrimes that continue to be committed by the wood products industry in front of our eyes. Single acts of vandalism (below) are nothing compared to the industrial carnage that is exterminating BC's big tree heritage.


Cathedral Grove is a "Class A" Provincial Park, among the best that Canada has to offer, with hundreds of thousands of vistors per year. Yet the popular park has no updated master plan and interpretive signs are weathered and in bad condition, some even with bullet holes (left).

Sign: "Forests: Our Future"
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)


Sign: "Giant's Grave" (Click to enlarge)
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)


Sign: "Giant's Grave" stump
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Park)


Three Cedars

Devil's Club

Indian Pipe

Skunk Cabbage

Red-breasted Sapsuckers

Western Redcedar

Living Stump

Scenery Beneath the Greenery

Pilated Woodpecker

The Tree of Life

Springboard Tree

Nurse Log

Children visiting Cathedral Grove
MacMillan Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada





One of the many thousands of annual visitors to Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Provincial Park)
Vancouver Island, British Columbia