Winter storm damage has closed a portion of Port Renfrew’s famed Avatar Grove and delayed the opening of a recently completed boardwalk.
Hurricane-force winds ripped through the area on Oct. 15 resulting in 30 trees crashing down over the Avatar Grove Trail in the lower grove area, damaging sections of the boardwalk.
The Ancient Forest Alliance completed the boardwalk a week before the storm, in a project that took three years and involved hundreds of volunteers.
“After anticipating the launch of the boardwalk’s completion, this is undoubtedly a bit of a disappointment and set back, but it’s only temporary,” said TJ Watt, the Ancient Forest Alliance’s coordinator of the boardwalk project.
The Ancient Forest Alliance began construction of the Avatar Grove Boardwalk in 2013 to protect the tree roots and understory vegetation from excessive trampling, enhance visitor access and safety, and support the local eco-tourism economy.
Volunteers will work on the boardwalk over the fall and winter with an eye to reopening next spring.
The entrance to the lower Avatar Grove has been cordoned with no public access while the upper grove boardwalk remains open and in “decent condition,” Watt said.
A 20-minute drive from Port Renfrew, the Avatar Grove is one of the most spectacular and easily accessible stands of monumental old-growth trees in B.C., protected in 2012. Thousands of tourists from around the world now come to visit the Avatar Grove, hugely bolstering the regional economy with so-called Tall Tree Tourism.
“The Avatar Grove boardwalk’s real significance is to serve as an example for other communities that protecting old-growth forests is good for the economy, hugely supporting local businesses and jobs,” said Ken Wu, the Ancient Forest Alliance’s executive director.
“The Avatar Grove has been the most important catalyst in the movement to B.C.’s endangered old-growth forests in recent times.”