Celebrating the Ancient Forest / Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park” 

By Andru McCracken

Glen Frear was one of the artists at the grand opening of the Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park last weekend. Frear said despite being at the location for many hours, the light hadn’t changed all the much. It’s a side effect of being under a rainforest canopy. See more P8-9 / ANDRU MCCRACKEN

Imagine walking through a forest of thousand year old trees to come across the strains of a quintet playing classical music. That’s what visitors to the ancient forest near Dome Creek witnessed last weekend.

People from McBride, Prince George, Dome Creek and further afield came together to celebrate Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park. It was made a class ‘A’ provincial park by the previous government. Minister of the Environment George Heyman was on hand to celebrate too.

Sheilagh Foster, an organizer and part of the Robson Valley Arts Council, said the opening celebration should have happened a year ago, but because of a change in the provincial government, it fell by the wayside.

Foster said the organizing principle of the festival was simple.

“I contacted everyone I could think of,” she said. “That kind of started the ball rolling.”

Foster said she organized the artists who participated. The park was filled with musicians, visual artists, weavers, storytellers and the occasional fairy.

“I thought let’s fill the park with artists of all kinds that represent our valley, Prince George included,” she said. “When people work together miracles can happen. This was a miracle of cooperation.”

Above: Crowds gather to hear beautiful music in the forest. Below, left to right: Sawyer, who lives in McBride, stands beside a giant. He loves coming here to see the big trees. A Quesnel family poses in the butt of an ancient cedar that only recently fell down. Magic in the forest.

The citizens of Dome Creek provided a meal to the public and the food costs were borne by the provincial government.

Foster said she was really impressed by the entire McBride village council who have been advocates for the park and who were all present at the opening.

“What struck me was the happy smiling faces. People were exuberant,” she said. “It was quite exceptional.”

Foster said having artists in the forest just made sense to her.

“All of us who are artists are influenced by our environment. The forest is a part of who we are and where we are,” she said. “Maybe this is an example of how wonderful it can be.”

Foster knows that not everyone in McBride appreciates the park or its new designation.

“There is more than one use for a cedar tree, some we look at to admire, others we make lumber with,” said Foster.

“I am all for this park, but it is not unique in the Robson Valley. You can walk other places and see forest like that, but if we preserve some of it we can at least remember what it was like,” she said.

Not everyone is for the provincial park, especially given that its footprint was much bigger than the original area flagged as so remarkable. Len McCarty owns Midget Mills. His mill helped create the cedar boards that built the boardwalk.

“I wish, as a society we valued discussion and truly wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts,” said McCarty. “This was a huge decision to set aside such valuable land without considering the cost or loss in the future.”

McCarty also worries about the human traffic in an otherwise serene environment.

“All those people may ruin the holiness of the place,” he said.

Above: Robert Dominick tells the legend of how the trees each got their distinct look during the opening ceremonies. Below, left to right: Shirley Bond and her grandson enjoy the Ancient Forest Park she lobbied to help establish.” Barb and Vonda enjoy the mix of art and nature at their quilting pavilion.