A beaver nibbles on a branch.
Photo Credit: Grand Teton | Flickr

Port Alberni Residents Band Together to Protect Beloved Beaver Ponds

They say Port Alberni should follow Tofino's lead when it comes to riparian protection

This community group is persistent, like the beavers they aim to protect

On VanIsle, you’re basically surrounded by nature. But with nature and cities so close together, we can forget the impacts we have on it.

In Port Alberni, a beloved urban trail leads to beautiful ponds that are home to beavers, ducks, and the endangered Western painted turtle.

These days, those ponds are getting some extra attention.

A group called the Friends of the Burde Street Beaver Ponds (FBSBP) calls it a rare jewel.

Karen St. Pierre is a member of the FBSBP. She calls the ponds and trails “a place of refuge, contemplation, and wonder,” where people come to find “calm, and solace.”

The FBSBP is taking action to keep this jewel safe for future generations.

Port Alberni doesn’t have any official bylaws to protect riparian areas, the area where a river bed meets land.

BC has the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation (RAPR). The regulation calls on local governments to protect their riparian areas. But it doesn’t apply to the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

This leaves the especially sensitive ponds vulnerable to new development.

The FBSBP just attended a Port Alberni city council meeting. They pushed the city to adopt the RAPR in its new Official Community Plan (OCP). They also want the city to press pause on any new development projects until the new OCP is adopted.

This was spurred on when San Group proposed a housing development in the area last year. San Group applied to amend the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaw. But they withdrew their application. They say they want to make changes to reduce the impact on the surrounding environment.

At the council meeting, St. Pierre brought up that Tofino has bylaws that Port Alberni could build off of.

“We believe that the City of Port Alberni should follow Tofino’s lead and adopt similar regulations for our area,” she said. “We are very concerned about proposed developments in our area that do not meet the standards of protection set out in the RAPR.”

Despite the group’s worries, council decided not to table a motion based on FBSBP’s request. Council proposed to wait until the release of the new OCP.

The city has been updating the OFC for the past year. The document guides government choices for local development.

Director of development services Scott Smith said the upcoming OCP will include some “significant new environmental policies.” Whether those policies will protect the beaver ponds remains to be seen.

San Group still hasn’t submitted a new application to the city. They have reportedly hired a QEP biologist to help prioritize the environment in their new application.

Although council didn’t say yes to FBSBP’s request, this committed group likely won’t let the issue go.

If you want to take part in protecting the ponds, you can sign their petition.