Hydroseeding is the last step for port McNeill’s new trail. (Rick Restell photo)

Rotary club completes trail extension in Port McNeill

Two culturally modified trees from ‘Namgis ancestors found along the path

The latest section in Port McNeill Rotary Club’s trail is nearly complete.

The first two sections have become a popular walking trail for residents, starting from the Legion at the south end of town. The current section will extend the trail to the airport. The hoped for fourth phase will take walkers, cyclists and runners all the way to Hyde Creek, about eight kilometres east of town past the airport.

READ MORE: 33rd annual Rotary Auction raises $50,000 gross profit

As the trail was mapped out, a team from the ‘Namgis First Nation, whose traditional territory is in the area, came across two trees that had been used for bark harvesting. They are formally referred to as culturally modified trees, or CMTs.

The trees are historic marker of ‘Namgis ancestors living off the land. Bark harvested from the western red cedars would have been “used to make a malleable fabric that our ancestors used for regalia, clothing or basketry,” said Don Svanvik, ‘Namgis elected chief councillor.

Archaeologists estimate the bark was being harvested around 170 years ago, and it’s likely that more cultural features will be uncovered.

“In that area, if you look on the other side of Port McNeill across the highway, you can just see the giant cedar stumps,” Svanvik said. “The first logging there started over a hundred years ago, I’m guessing. So a lot of these culturally modified trees, I’m sure, have been lost.”

It’s important for ‘Namgis to protect these trees “because according to Ottawa and the courts, we still need to prove that we lived here, and this is one of the ways,” Svanvik said. “I don’t agree with that. We’ve never sold or given up our land.”

The ‘Namgis First Nation is working with the rotary club to come up with signage to explain the trees and why they’re being protected.

Abernethy from the rotary club wanted the public to know that the process of working with the ‘Namgis on the trail was a positive one.

“People think because they’re asking questions that they’re against it, but that’s not it at all,” he said. “People have been walking all over native history for years and now we’re realizing it’s time to show case it.”

READ MORE: B.C. Rotary exchange students told to ‘shelter in place’ through COVID-19

The rotary club had planned to start fundraising for the next trail extension this May, but had to postpone the event due to COIVD-19.

This third phase was completed faster than expected thanks to an anonymous donation that allowed the club to rent the hydroseed machine, which sprays a slurry of grass seed and mulch. The grass roots faster this way, and will grow quickly.

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