A Journey Back to Nature: A History of Strathcona Provincial Park by Catherine Marie Gilbert

With domestic travel restrictions in place, I was looking for an outdoor getaway that would serve as a place to unplug, stay active, and enjoy the quiet away from urban centres. I came across Strathcona Provincial Park as an option with a rustic lodge and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures but didn’t know the history of the land or of any industrial drama that had plagued it for decades. Luckily, an offer to review A Journey Back to Nature: A History of Strathcona Provincial Park arrived with plenty of time for me to appreciate Catherine Marie Gilbert’s thorough research and passion for bringing the battle of the park’s preservation into focus.

We learn about Buttle Lake, a postcard perfect scene for kayakers and campers, and the devastating imposition of “progress” by means of logging, dam development, and mining. The latter is especially jarring when the impacts of water pollution are exposed. Forbidden Plateau’s heyday as a destination skihill and lodge and summer playground is fondly recollected, and while still popular amongst backcountry campers and hikers, the plateau also had its reckoning due to competition and weather conditions.

“…a solid and necessary read.”

Intrinsic to this history are the stories of the people involved in saving Strathcona Park for future generations. Conservationists Roderick Haig-Brown and William Reid participated in a lengthy battle against the BC Power Commission for Buttle, an effort to save it from the dam project. Buttle came out of this only a partial winner, and it had taken its toll on Reid and his family.

In the early 70s, Jim and Myrna Boulding founded a lodge on their property, designating it as an outdoor education centre for primary to secondary students, along with tourists. The Strathcona Park Lodge is still standing today, true to its roots with youth programs in place.

Maps and photographs accompany each major timeline event in Strathcona Park’s upheavals, giving one a sense of its vulnerability, and urgency in need to visit and protect it at the same time. 

Gilbert’s presentation delivers a solid and necessary read for anyone interested in environmental conservation and how battles were won and lost against the industrial machine, backed directly and indirectly by power-hungry consumers.

Catherine Marie Gilbert is an author, historian, and lecturer, whose interest in BC coastal life, past and present, is evident in her work. In 2018, she completed her master’s thesis on the environmental history of Strathcona Provincial Park and obtained her masters degree in Public History from the University of Victoria. She is the author of Yorke Island and the Uncertain War: Defending Canada’s Western Coast, and her articles have appeared in Western MarinerBC Historical Federation JournalBC Studies, and Escape.

  • Publisher : Heritage House (May 18 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1772033588
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1772033588

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Mala Rai is a poet, drummer, psychology student, and technical writing hired gun on the West Coast. Her most recent poems have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, High Shelf Press, and Anti-Heroin Chic. You can follow her on Instagram @malaraipoetry