Alberni Valley residents upset by logging up to cemetery property line

CHEK

B.C.’s largest private landholder is coming under fire for logging right up to the border of an Alberni Valley cemetery, leaving many outraged and wondering how it could happen.

Giancarlo Bottaro has been visiting his wife’s grave at Alberni Valley Memorial Gardens twice daily, ever since losing her this past June.

“Well, I owe it to her. We were together for 50 years,” said Bottaro.

He’s among those upset that logging giant Mosaic Forest Management has logged right to the edge of the cemetery, not far from his wife’s grave and less than a few meters from many others.

“It doesn’t make me feel very good because, like I say, it looks a lot better before. They should have a little more respect for, at least for graveyards. You know, stay away a little bit,” said Bottaro.

The owner of the cemetery is also upset.

“It’s a disaster. I’ve heard some comments that it looks like a war zone,” said Barry Tuck, owner of Yates Memorial Services, which owns the cemetery.

“I know that will clean up a little bit, but at the same time, there’s no border to the cemetery anymore. The frustrating part to that is that I was given information prior to that they were aware they were bordering a cemetery and they were going to leave quite a berm of trees.”

Tuck says Mosaic sent him a diagram in an email on Nov. 7 saying, “…we have included retention and buffers through the harvest areas including leave trees and retention between the harvest and the cemetery.”

“I actually felt, isn’t that sad that they’re going to clear that area, but at the same time, they’re sensitive to the cemetery, and that wasn’t the result, unfortunately,” said Tuck.

Mosaic didn’t have anyone available for an interview Wednesday but, in a statement, says its initial plans changed when “…further professional review indicated that retaining large trees in this area would create public safety risks with potential future blowdown.”

It added, “Small leave trees that posed no risk of blowdown and no safety concerns were retained…”

It says it told Alberni Valley Memorial Gardens about the change. Still, people in the Alberni Valley feel the company could have and should have left a buffer near the cemetery.

“Totally disrespectful to the cemetery and the people’s families,” said Svend Slogar, a Port Alberni resident.

“They should’ve kept to their word and had that 40-foot buffer like they normally always do, or should, and they don’t.”

Botarro, who used to be a logger himself, says he has never seen something like this. Leaving no buffer between logging activity and a cemetery where so many come to take a moment, reflect and remember.

Mosaic says for every tree harvested, it plants at least two seedlings, and it will be replanted this spring.

Tuck says he’s now contemplating putting up a fence.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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