Eco-tourists are coming to Port Renfrew to view Avatar Grove.

Eco-tourism in Port Renfrew

Avatar grove draws people to old-growth forest

  • Jul. 20, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Port Renfrew, long a logging town, has realized they can capitalize on the protection of their natural assets to keep the community alive.

The Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Ancient Forest Alliance, the advocacy group that leads tours of the majestic ‘Avatar Grove’, to funnel more tourists into the area and feed the local economy.

The two organizations launched an info centre Thursday, July 14 that will hopefully be a hub for visitors looking for information about Avatar Grove  and a boom for local businesses.

“What we used to rely on to sustain Port Renfrew was logging, but the tables have turned,” said Rosie Betsworth, chamber president.

She said while the partnership with an environmental group initially raised eyebrows among area residents, the forest alliance isn’t a “radical” group, instead one that aims to educate people gently about the importance of protecting old-growth forests.

“Their application is soft and it works.”

And it is working. The Ancient Forest Alliance holds tours once a month through the grove, and an average of 50 people show up each time, many from across Canada and Europe. TJ Watt, campaigner and photographer for the alliance, said thousands have come through the grove since he first discovered it in late 2009.

“There are five, six, seven cars there on an average day,” he said. The maps available in the info centre provide directions on how to reach the grove, a 20-minute drive from the village centre and then a 15-minute hike. It features the world’s biggest Douglas fir and Canada’s gnarliest tree, covered with a 10-foot wide burl at its base. Watt estimates the oldest tree in the grove is 500 years old.

Betsworth said the flow of visitors coming to see the grove is translating into real growth for the village, and she can understand why.

“The town is small, unique, green and clean,” she said. Everywhere you turn there’s something else to see.”

The community now has its first strip mall- a row of businesses with a restaurant, a market and the info centre, as well as a growing list of accommodations, eateries and eco-tourism opportunities.

She admits that the quality of the West Coast highway needs to be improved, and the switchbacks need to be gentler.

“The pressure is on” to keep the Pacific Rim Circle Route, a logging road which connects Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan, maintained.

Watt thinks local businesses are on-board with this new tourism strategy.

“I find that most business owners have made the connection between protecting the earth and raising funds,” he said.

However, he’s not yet assured that the tourists will be able to visit Avatar Grove indefinitely.

On Watt’s second visit to the grove in February 2010, he noticed surveyor tape around some of the trees. Since then, it’s been “a long, drawn-out battle for the last year and a half” to get the grove protected. The government is currently consulting with Teal-Jones Group, which has logging rights. Watt thinks that with the frenzy of people coming in to see the trees, it would be in the government’s best interest to

“It’d be way too backwards to cut it down at this point.”

 

Just Posted

Saanich police ask for public’s help locating missing high risk youth

The 12-year-old was last seen before school on Monday morning

Lengthy cannabis report leaves Sooke council with questions

Temporary use option for pot producers seen as untenable

Flat tire, kindness of strangers, surprisingly inflate hope

Sooke mom and her daughters knocked on door of Bob and Norma Saunders seeking help

Jeff McArthur suspends Sooke council bid

Former Mountie second candidate to withdraw from race

Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

The report describes the occasion as an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed gala event

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

Sooke athletes win gold at 55+ Games

Myrtle Acton, 86, leads way with three first place finishes

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Most Read