Ancient forest hot spot: Port Renfrew’s Avatar Grove now accessible to public

Ancient forest hot spot: Port Renfrew's Avatar Grove now accessible to public

WATCH: After four years of hard work, Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew now has a boardwalk that makes it accessible to people of all ages. April Lawrence was there.

They are some of the most magnificent trees on Vancouver Island or even the world.

“You’re going to see some of the grandest forest left not only in Canada but on planet Earth. To have these 14-15 foot wide trees here is a very rare thing, these trees can be 1,000 years old,” said Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance.

Once a little-known area, the50-hectare forest outside of Port Renfrew is now easily accessible, after a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday officially opened “Avatar Grove” to the public.

Work on the boardwalk project started four years ago, after the Ancient Forest Alliance fought and won a battle to have the area protected.

It took hundreds of volunteers endless hours to transform the rugged terrain.

“It obviously involved tremendous effort carrying the heavy boardwalk planks and buckets of gravel to top of the hill to build these,” said TJ Watt, boardwalk co-ordinator with the Ancient Forest Alliance.

One of the main goals was to protect the sensitive ecosystem

“We wanted to first and foremost protect plants and tree roots from all foot traffic going by,” said Watt.

But it was also to make it a tourist draw ? and it has worked.

On Thursday, there were dozens of visitors from Victoria, Toronto, and even Germany on the one-kilometre trail.

“I think it’s bigger than I pictured it, the big trees and everything’s so green,” said Tim Schumaker, a tourist from Germany.

Visitors included several families with young children, who said they found the trail, with its new boardwalks, easy to hike.

The popularity of Avatar Grove’s ancient trees is providing a major boost to the small community of Port Renfrew.

“That’s created a spur, a flurry of economic activity, between new employment, construction, people becoming more interested in Renfrew and making Renfrew a destination,” said Dan Hager, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.

Those who fought to protect Avatar Grove, and it’s unique beauty, are hoping it sends a message to the government that protecting old growth forests is more than just an environmental decision.

“People used to think saving old growth forest undermines rural economies, instead it shows the opposite, saving old growth forest actually brings in tremendous amounts of revenues, businesses, and jobs for rural economies,” said Wu.

And now people of all ages, from around the world, will have a chance to see the gentle giants up close.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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