Greg Yeomans, president of the Morice Mountain Nordic Ski Club, said that although signs have labelled the Morice Mountain recreation area as a community forest, “unfortunately, it isn’t yet”. (Submitted photo)

Houston area ski club proposes new community forest

Morice Mountain has ‘huge untapped potential’

The Morice Mountain Nordic Ski Club is proposing the creation of a new community forest over its 6,200-hectare recreation area.

“Signs have labelled this area as a community forest. Unfortunately, it isn’t yet,” wrote ski club President Greg Yeomans in a letter to Houston council dated July 31.

The ski club proposes a different model from Houston’s Dungate Community Forest, said Yeomans.

“Typical operational forestry will not work well here,” he said. “Simple things, like timing and scale of operations, could have devastating impacts to this recreational area.”

However, Yeomans said “small-scale harvesting” at the Morice Mountain recreation area could address both recreational needs and community wildfire protection.

“[We propose] a model where a non-profit society, in partnership with the District of Houston and other community groups, benefit from the proceeds and drive development in a consistent recreation-based manner.”

Yeomans said the Morice Mountain recreation area has a “huge untapped potential”.

“The cross-country skiing potential is vast, but that is only the beginning,” he wrote, noting recreational opportunities include snowshoeing, backcountry skiing and fat bikes in the winter, as well as camping, hiking, mountain biking, paddle sports and horseback riding in the summer.

But in order to reach its full potential, a “consistent funding source” is needed for the area, said Yeomans.

“Grants have done a lot for the area … but to reach a whole other level, a different framework is required.”

The ski club has asked council for a letter of support to move their plan forward.

Although Yeomans asked the district for a letter of support, his July 31 letter acknowledged the plan is still in early stages, and that “more details would need to be worked out.”

Gerald Pinchbeck, Houston’s chief administrative officer, said the district will be inviting the club to a future council meeting to present their proposal to council as a delegation.

The Morice Mountain Nordic Ski Club, incorporated as a society in 1987, manages ski trails in the Morice Mountain recreation site, located approximately 8 km south of Houston, under a management agreement with the B.C. Recreation Branch.

According to the B.C. Community Forest Association, community forestry, at its core, is about local control over and enjoyment of the monetary and non-monetary benefits offered by local forest resources.

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