Hanna Bolton stands next to a local Sitka Spruce which is 226 feet tall and more than 500 years old. A tour this Sunday in celebration of Earth Day will once again hike out to the tree

Hanna Bolton stands next to a local Sitka Spruce which is 226 feet tall and more than 500 years old. A tour this Sunday in celebration of Earth Day will once again hike out to the tree

Parksville Qualicum Beach Earth Day festivities centred around trees and wildlife

Today (Tuesday) is Earth Day, a global celebration with local activities

It is officially Earth Day today, April 22, and members of the public can join local celebrations in nature this Saturday and Sunday.

The local chapter of the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee (WCWC) is doing its annual tour to Canada’s third largest Sitka Spruce tree.

Those who would like to take part in the interpretive tour (by donation) can meet at the corner of the old Island highway and Kinkade road on Sunday, April 27 at 1 p.m., with good walking shoes.

Annette Tanner, with the WCWC, said less than 110 hectares of old growth Coastal Douglas fir forest has been protected in the entire country.

“The East Coast of Vancouver Island, south of Bowser, is the only place where this highly endangered globally imperilled ecosystem occurs,” she said.

The endangered forest is getting more and more difficult to preserve she said, as the majority of it is on private land. And even Crown land isn’t safe, she said, as evident with the logging of DL33 in Nanoose Bay.

The WCWC has been taking people onto Crown land where the Sitka Spruce tree lives every Earth Day since 2000 to celebrate the land and to rally support to preserve it as well as the land that sits directly beside.

Sixty hectares of land adjacent to the Crown land was once owned by a company called Weyerhaeuser, which agreed to give it to the Regional District of Nanaimo in the year 2000, Tanner said. But administration changes with that company and at the RDN caused plans to fall through, she said.

“So this deal didn’t get ratified before the change of hands to the new owners, Island Timberlands,” she said.

Tanner said she’s still hopeful after all these years that that land, which is designated a riparian forest,  will get donated as a park to preserve.

“The joy people are able to experience during that walk is just amazing,” she said. “People have a hard time believing that the area is not protected.”

People will get to see an incredible amount of biodiversity on the hike, Tanner said, including fawn lilies, orchids and wild ginger.

Dogs are not encouraged on the hike as there are wild animals and nesting birds in the area, Tanner said.

The walk takes about one to two hours and all ages have enjoyed the hike in the past.

• The day before, on Saturday, April 26, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre will have tours, a raptor presentation, educational displays and a plant sale. This event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The centre, a world class rehabilitation facility, houses bears, eagles, several species of owls, falcons, hawks, ravens and turkeys that people can also view.

The centre is located at 1240 Leffler Road in Errington. Visit www.niwra.org for more information.

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