Octopus Islands Marine Park extends its reach

·3 min read

The emerald shores and unspoiled bays of the Octopus Islands Marine Park are a longtime haven and popular destination for boaters and kayakers exploring the beauty of B.C.’s Inside Passage.

“It’s definitely a favourite spot for recreational boaters,” says George Creek, president of the B.C. Marine Parks Forever Society, of the reserve on the northeastern reaches of Quadra Island.

Creek has fond memories of anchoring for days at a time, noodling around the nooks and bays of the park, accessible only by boat, and exploring the rocky, forested shores.

“We’d paddle around, walk the trails and just relax,” Creek said of the park in the heart of the Discovery Islands archipelago. “It’s a beautiful, pristine part of the B.C. coast.”

So Creek is thrilled BC Parks has acquired more land to expand the park with $100,000 in assistance from the B.C. Marine Parks Forever Society, a volunteer organization that raises funds to help buy land for new marine parks and enhance existing ones.

A 20-hectare, privately owned island in Okisollo Channel was purchased by the province for $1.5 million and will be added to the 862-hectare park.

The society’s latest contribution builds on a longtime commitment to the marine park, which has benefited from a total of $783,000 in donations from the organization for a series of land acquisitions starting in 2004.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to contribute to the health of our marine parks,” Creek said.

“If we don’t protect these areas, a lot of them could get taken over by commercial development.”

The Octopus Islands Marine Park was established in 1974 for the purposes of marine recreation and to protect a portion of an important subzone in the fragile and largely unprotected coastal western hemlock ecosystem.

The marine park also provides prime swimming, hiking, canoeing opportunities, and ideal habit for octopuses and other marine species that frequent the fast-moving tidal currents found in Okisollo Channel.

Local Ken Roxburgh, treasurer of the Quadra Island Conservancy and Stewardship Society, said the park expansion is great news and builds on previous successes by the community to protect the valuable wildness area from logging.

“There’s nothing bad about that news,” said Roxburgh.

“Islanders have put a lot of effort and money into making the park contiguous with Small Inlet Marine Park and this improves it, so I’m happy.”

Locals spent years waging a campaign called Save the Heart of Quadra Parks, and raised $200,000 towards securing land to link the Octopus Islands and Small Inlet marine parks in 2014.

In doing so, islanders helped protect important archeological sites, First Nations clam gardens, and historic portage routes traversing the two parks.

The conjoined marine parks are a huge draw for tourists given they're ideal spots for kayakers and recreational boaters, but locals love the area for its historical and ecological value, Roxburgh said.

“Islanders obviously feel it’s an area that deserves to be protected for its natural beauty and marine life,” he said.

“It’s an incredibly wild and wonderful area.”

Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer