Courtenay: From Sawmill to Conservation Area

Courtenay sawmill land to become a conservation area

After more than 50 years the Fields Sawmill in Courtenay closed its doors in 2005 and now it’s about to get a new lease on life. Project Watershed and the K’ómoks First Nation entered into an agreement with Interfor to purchase the land, and transform it into a conservation area to be renamed Kus-kus-sum.

Once restored, Kus-kus-sum will support Chinook, Pink, Chum, and Coho Salmon, as well as Cutthroat Trout and Steelhead. Approximately 30 bird species, as well as many plant species, will benefit from this project.

The agreement was long in the making, with Project Watershed beginning discussions with Interfor in 2014. The FWCP helped the group achieve its goal with a grant in 2016-2017 to help complete a land securement strategy and develop a preliminary restoration prescription for the site.

The original salt marsh that existed on the site was filled in, paved over, and the foreshore was artificially armoured with 440 metres of steel-clad retaining wall. This area acts as a pinch point where salmon – both out-migrating juveniles and returning spawners – are easily preyed on by seals.

The City of Courtenay and K’ómoks First Nation will jointly hold title on the land, which is a site of cultural significance. The land is located across the river from an early K’ómoks settlement called Kus-kus-sum. The property was used as a final resting place for K’ómoks ancestors. With input from the Nation, Kus-kus-sum was chosen as the new name for the property.

While an agreement has been struck, the heavy-lifting of raising the funds to buy the land is just getting started. “We have a limited amount of time to raise the funds required to complete the purchase and restoration work,” said Tim Ennis, Director for Project Watershed. “Failure to do so could see the property go back on the market. The total project cost is estimated at $6M.”

Learn More at public meeting

There will be a public meeting about the property, outside Locals Restaurant at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, 1730 Riverside Lane in Courtenay.