A recent ELC submission calls on the provincial government to address long-standing and growing concerns over an active gun range in the Cowichan River Provincial Park, the only operational gun range in a provincial park in the province.
“When you think Class A BC Provincial Park, the first thing that comes to mind is likely not a firing range,” says Bob Kopp of the Cowichan River Neighbourhood Association (CRNA), who came to the ELC with the group’s concerns. “This exception is an anomaly that’s been overlooked for too long.”
On behalf of the CRNA, the submission provides a number of recommendations to address issues related to gun range activities in the Park, including legal, environmental and health concerns. The group hopes the submission will help to inform the Park’s current Management Plan process, which is currently underway.
ELC Executive Director Deborah Curran, who supervised the project, says “Operating a gun range in a provincial park is inconsistent with the purpose of the Parks Act, legal precedents on gun clubs and permissible activities in parks. However, as BC Parks goes through the Park Management Planning Process, there is an opportunity to address the anomaly in Cowichan River Provincial Park.”
Not only does operating a gun range in a park conflict with the purpose of a provincial park and raise legal issues, it causes concerns about the impacts of lead pollution on human health and the environment. At Thetis Lake Regional Park near Victoria, the CRD is remediating a former firing range. Used as a firing range for over 100 years, the area was identified as a contaminated site requiring remediation due to contamination by metals from bullets and casings.
Report recommendations include reviewing permits, identifying permitted park activities that uphold the purpose of the Park Act, assessing the current lead contamination and surrounding park area, ceasing operations of the gun range and restricting operations as it is phased out.
“A gun range is just not an appropriate activity for a Class A BC Provincial Park,” says Kopp, “especially one next to the Cowichan River, which is both a BC Heritage River and a Canadian Heritage River.”