ABOUT CORTES ISLAND
Cortes Island is home to a unique, vibrant community of about 1000 residents who share a deep love for Cortes. The community is comprised of people from diverse backgrounds First Nations, pioneer families and their descendents, baby boomers, young families, and successive waves of people who choose Cortes for its beauty, wilderness, community culture and integrity. Check out The Tideline, the community website for a more detailed sense of Cortes community life.
Cortes has four main community nodes Mansons Landing in the south, Squirrel Cove on the north-east, Whaletown and the Gorge on the west side. Here is a handy Printable Map of Cortes Island.
The Cortes community infrastructure is made up of two community halls, two post offices, a public school and alternative school, ambulance service, health centre, credit union, volunteer fire department, library, North Island College branch, farmers market, three general stores, three restaurants, two cafes, natural food co-op, art galleries, museum, recycling centre and free store, craft store, several parks, beaches, lakes, forest trails, and several community non-profit organizations. (For listing and links to some of these organizations go to here.) Cortes is also home to the Linnaea Farm Ecological Garden Programme and the Hollyhock Educational Retreat Centre.
Siskin Lane is within walking distance of some of the most spectacular parks on the island. These park are largely connected by the growing network of public trails throughout southern Cortes, including several kilometers of trails within the Siskin Lane property.
Smelt Bay Provincial Park is a 30-minute walk from Siskin Lane, almost entirely along wooded trails. The forty-acre oceanfront provincial park is located on the south-west tip of Cortes, and is home to community events and gatherings in the summer months, including the nightly sunset lightshow. After dark, bioluminescence can sometimes be seen in the remarkably warm ocean, and Aurora Borealis also make an appearance in the sky on very special nights.
A thirty minute walk north from Siskin Lane, along the coast is Mansons Landing, a 117-acre park with a government wharf, an incredible life-filled lagoon, and beautiful beach and forest lands. Not far inland from here is Hague Lake with its fresh, warm waters, white sand beach and rocks to sunbathe and dive from. In the middle of the lake is an island within swimming or paddling distance.
Kwas Park Trails are located a 20 minute walk from Siskin Lane, in the 173 acre Kwas Park (between Hague and Gunflint Lakes). The trails pass through an astounding range of ecosystems, from swamp to high open bluffs. About 20% of Kw'as Park is virgin old growth forest.
A New Park (adjacent to Cemetery Road)
Integral to the development of Siskin Lane is the creation and donation of a thirty-two acre park in the heart of southern Cortes. This woodland park, located a fifteen minute walk from the 'downtown' core of Mansons Landing, is a vital connective corridor for trails, people and wildlife. As Cortes grows, it will remain a natural oasis.
In the early 1900s, much of Cortes was logged and subsequently burned. As a result, the landscape is dominated by sixty to eighty year-old Douglas-fir forests. Although there are some remnant patches of older forest, very little old-growth forest remains. Land use patterns have shifted, however, and Cortes Island now stands at the forefront of sustainability initiatives and local stewardship.
On a day-to-day level, sustainability is increasingly a necessary and obvious choice on Cortes. Where possible, local woodworkers are building homes using local timber that is milled on the island, local stone masons are building with Cortes stones, gardeners are saving and trading seed to plant next year and sell at the farmers market. Alternative energy sources are being used more and more, and resource conservation is widespread. Local sustainability experts are regularly invited into the schools to share their areas of specialty with students, and a local walking club keeps the tradition of trail knowledge alive to name just a few examples in the web of community life on Cortes.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS/COMMUNITY PLANNING
Cortes is home to dozens of active non-profit organizations including the Cortes Ecoforestry Society, Friends of Cortes Island, the Cooperation for Cortes Self Sufficiency, the Cortes Land Conservancy, and the Trust for Sustainable Forestry. These organizations represent the prevailing ethos of Cortes residents, which emphasizes local, sustainable stewardship that honours the genius loci. Initiatives set in motion by these organizations and local individuals have brought about enduring change on the island, and set precedents for other communities.
Growth and expansion on Cortes, on one level, happens quite organically, with stunningly unique results. Recently, however, growth on the island has sped up, and a new model of community planning is being tested. In the fall of 2005, a community design 'charette' was held on the island, where members of the community came together for a multi-day visioning exercise ("Mansons Landing: Growing Beautifully") that looked at the future of Manson's Landing, drawing on the principles of "Smart Growth" to initiate a holistic and sustainable approach to community planning.
COMMUNITY FORESTS AND CONSERVATION
Cortes Island has been at the forefront of community conservation efforts for over a decade. Both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities have actively lobbied (at times in conjunction with each other) to promote community control of the forest land base and the adoption of progressive forestry practices centered on ecosystem-based management. In the early 1990s the Cortes Ecoforestry Society, strengthened by a membership that included a significant majority of the adult population on the island, undertook a comprehensive land-use planning process for the entire island. This process resulted in the Cortes Island Ecosystem-Based Plan, which has yet to be legally implemented but remains a driving force behind the communitys assessment of, and potential support for, any land-use initiatives. This land-use plan clearly defines the community vision of what constitutes ecosystem-based management. The community continues to advocate for the implementation of ecosystem-based management.
For over fifteen years, the Cortes Ecoforestry Society, and the Klahoose First Nation have been working to obtain tenure over the much of the forest lands of Cortes for the creation of an Ecosystem-Based Community Forest. When successful, the Community Forest will encompass close to 50% of the island land-base. Negotiations continue towards securing a Community Forest tenure, but meanwhile some of the islands most treasured private forests lands are in danger of being sold and clearcut.
Throughout the mid tolate 1900's large tracts of private forest lands on Cortes were acquired by MacMillan Bloedel (M&B), one of the largest logging companies in British Columbia. In 1999, M&B was purchased by Weyerhaeuser, a US-based multinational timber company. Shortly after, Weyerhaeuser announced their intention to continue with an M&B plan to dispose of all their Cortes land holdings in a staged sales process that amounted to the largest private land transfer in island history. Over the next several years numerous tracts of land were put on the market. Several were sold to individual buyers who valued the land for its ecological integrity and natural beauty. Others were sold to small logging companies and largely clearcut in 2003 and 2004. The sale, and subsequent logging, of the Weyerhaeuser lands caused considerable concern among many island residents and community organizations.
In the summer of 2005, Weyerhaeuser's remaining Cortes land holdings were transferred to Island Timberlands as part of the sale of all of Weyerhaeuser's coastal timber assets. Island Timberlands has continued Weyerhaeuser's land sales process.