Savary Island Land Trust Society
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DL1375 Questions & Answers

Why Should DL 1375 be preserved?
How have most Islanders responded to development proposals for DL 1375?
Is more subdivision of Savary Island in the public interest?
Has The Nature Trust ever made offers to purchase DL 1375?
How could DL 1375 be preserved?
How have Islanders responded to the idea to preserve  DL 1375?

Why Should DL 1375 be preserved?

DL 1375 is essentially the heart the lungs and the wellspring of the Island.  DL 1375 consists of 133 hectares (330 acres) in the middle of the island, and contains Western Canada’s only intact example of a forested dune ecosystem.   Some of the ecosystems found on DL 1375 are not found anywhere else in the world.  Ten years ago, the Ministry of Environment noted that DL1375 would be a good candidate as an Ecological Reserve.

Savary Island is located in the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic (BEC) zone.  The 2008 milestone report Taking Nature’s Pulse: the Status of Biodiversity in British Columbia notes that:  “the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic (BEC) zone is the rarest (BEC) in BC and of great conservation concern” (Taking Nature’s Pulse 2008:268).  Taking Nature's Pulse: the Staus of Biodiversity in Brititsh Columbia

Property owners and visitors to Savary have used the extensive trail network on DL 1375 to access beaches, old growth forests, wild flower meadows, dune areas, and the waterfront for countless generations. The trail network on DL 1375 provides the only land access to much of the waterfront in the middle of the Island. The area that is south and west of the airstrip and east to Duck Bay contains the best example of a coastal dune ecosystem in Canada.


How have most Islanders responded to development proposals for DL 1375?

Public concern and interest in the fate of this land began when the developers first made plans for a high density subdivision of 70 parcels (double the 10 acre limit) in the 1980’s. In an Editor’s note in the Savary Island News on November 21, 1984 “ The event which triggered the proposal for an APC (Advisory Planning Commission) was a request by Trillium Corporation to have the 10 acre minimum lot size rescinded for the airstrip property so they could have denser development....While it is true that only Trillium owns the airport, it is also true that if excessive pressure is put on the water supply, the whole island could be without water to drink.  Also, the current lack of regulations mean that a person could start a marina, with the resulting pollution affecting all Savary swimmers.”  (Savary Island News Nov 21 1984 Number 36 Vol III:4)  The importance of this land to the community has inspired islanders to organize committees, societies, charities and fundraisers to protect water and critical habitat for over 30 years.  It was concern over the subdivision of DL 1375 in the that inspired discussions about forming an Advisory Planning Commission for Savary in the mid 1980’s, which many years later lead to the formation of the Savary Island Committee, now ASIC. 

This land is pivotal to the future sustainability of Savary Island.  The 90 parcel subdivision plan proposed by developers Roger Sahlin (RRR Construction) and his partner David Syre, (map below) drew over 200 people to a meeting at Duck Bay in August 1995.  The proposal was for a 90 parcel gated community complete with Airport and Airplane Hangers.   If this plan had gone through as proposed, access to the many trails people enjoy today would have been lost long ago.  The dunes, old growth forests, sensitive areas, ecosystems, rare plants and plant communities on DL 1375 would have all been lost forever.  Community opposition to this plan was fierce and ultimately the Powell River Regional District (PRRD) withdrew the bylaw which was intended to facilitate it and began to develop and Official Community Plan (OCP) instead. 
Community concern over the 90 parcel subdivision proposed in 1995 was the catalyst for establishing the Savary Island Land Trust in 1997. 

90 Parcel Concept Proposal

Community opposition to this plan was fierce and ultimately the Powell River Regional District (PRRD) withdrew the bylaw which was intended to facilitate it and began to develop and Official Community Plan (OCP) instead. 


Is more subdivision of Savary Island in the public interest?  

After the 1995 proposal was rejected the Powell River Regional District (PRRD) began an Official Community Plan (OCP) for Savary. 

In 1997 OCP consultant Derek Pratt told the PRRD and the SIC that: “Savary Island is reaching critical development thresholds” (October 1997)
Since that time development on the Island has more than doubled.

DL 1375 is the largest groundwater recharge area on Savary Island.

“When you drink the water, remember the spring.”
--  Chinese Proverb

Water has been an issue on Savary since the first subdivision in 1910.  “ Fresh water has been a problem on Savary for the last 75 years that we know of, and I’ll bet it is still as hot a subject 75 years hence” wrote Jim Spillsbury in the Savary Island News after telling a story about the unsuccessful attempt to provide water to the houses near the wharf with a water system in 1913.  After the laborious construction of an elaborate cistern and pumping system, the well went dry.  (SIN  June 12, 1985:8).  A proposal to develop DL 1375 in 1984 had caused the Savary community to ask questions about the water supply again and the capacity of the Island to withstand more development.  Spillsbury wrote a series of pieces in the SIN in 1985, wherein he tries to understand and explain the water situation on Savary.  Subsequent articles by Hugh Rickard cautioned readers about Spillsbury’s musings and provided instead explanations, scientific reports, and well tests by Professional Engineer Mr. Livingston.  More questions about the water on Savary grew from this.  Let’s hope we can learn more and do more about our precious water resources now, before another 50 years has passed and Spillsbury’s prediction becomes a truth. 

When DL1375 was again threatened with subdivision in 1995 a preliminary water study was commissioned.   A Preliminary Assessment of the Groundwater Resources of Savary Island, British Columbia was completed in 1996 and noted that “There is a lack of data upon which to come to any definitive conclusions about the quantity groundwater present on Savary.” (Tupper 1995:i)   

Still today, our knowledge about the water supply on Savary is scant.
Since 1997, SILT has requested that the PRRD conduct a comprehensive water study for Savary Island.  The PRRD has not proceeded with this request.

In 2003, the Thurber Report SAVARY ISLAND DUNE AND SHORELINE STUDY noted that: “Our review of existing draft development guidelines suggests that their non regulatory nature will not adequately protect public health and safety along high bluff areas or provide assurance over the quality of shallow aquifers utilized for domestic water supplies.” (Thurber 2003)

A Court decision to subdivide DL 1375 is currently under appeal and will be heard on December 3, 2010 in Vancouver. The Court could order a sale or a subdivision.

Responsible decision making based on science, fact and public input is needed now.
The high density developments described above are absent from Mr. Sahlin’s  family history letters to the SIN and to the ASIC.  Mr Sahlin’s  letters provide a partial history of the previous plans for subdivision of DL 1375.  The letters are interesting not only for what is included but also for what is not included.  The developers 1995 proposal (Map above) for a 90 parcel gated community, carving up and covering the most sensitive dunes and complete with Airport and Airplane Hangers was not included.  Neither does the mid 1980’s high density development of DL 1375 proposed by the developers appear to be included in Mr. Sahlin’s letter.  

Since acquiring 50% interest in DL 1375 in 2002, the Nature Trust of BC has been working hard to acquire the remaining interest to create a large protected area on Savary. 


A few Islanders have asked the question: Why does the Sahlin family claim that they have never been made an offer for DL 1375?  Has The Nature Trust ever made offers to purchase DL 1375? 

For those interested in this question, please see this document >>

For News items on a couple of Sahlin family development projects in Washington, please see this document >>


Save the DunesHow could DL 1375 be preserved?

On April 28, 2010 the Powell River Peak quoted Nature Trust of BC Executive Director, Doug Walker.

“The property also has public recreation values and trails that are important to maintain, Walker said. “Our original goal in getting involved in this was that we wanted to see this as a provincial park for the people of British Columbia and for Savary Island,” he said. “That’s still our ultimate goal, if we can achieve it. We have to keep that in sight, that’s why we got into this whole project in the beginning. We still hope at some point, whatever the outcome, that we’ll be able to work with the province and the [Powell River] Regional District to develop some type of public park system so that it will be protected in perpetuity.”
Conservation group appeals Savary decision 


photo by Dennis IngersollSILT submitted a petition to the PRRD’s Parks and Greenspace Plan with 450 signatures in support of the preservation of DL 1375.  SILT was disappointed to learn that the outgoing Association of the Savary Island Committee’s (ASIC) 9 members dismissed the preservation of DL 1375 in the Parks & Greenspace Plan.  ASIC did not review the Parks and Greenspace Plan, or consult its membership, prior to making the recommendation. 


Further, ASIC reported in SIN that it would cost Savary Islanders $5-$7 million in increased taxes to acquire the land. This is not correct.  At the SILT AGM (August 2010), attended by ASIC Chair Bud Graham, Savary Islander and Nature Trust of BC Director, Doug Christopher, told SILT members and guests that, if the Court were to order a sale of the property in the appeal funds would need to be raised from conservation initiatives, foundations, governments, and private individuals. Should the Court order a sale, SILT is committed to supporting the Nature Trust of BC’s efforts to raise the funds needed.

photo by Dennis Ingersoll


How have Islanders responded to the idea to preserve  DL 1375?

Although the ASIC has recently reported that they did not support the inclusion of DL1375 in the Parks and Greenspaces Plan because the cost of purchase " ... would be viewed by the community unfavourably".

The 1998 Savary Island Committee Questionnaire that accompanied the SIC election material that year contradicts this. The Questionnaire drew a response from over 400 of the then approximately 900 Savary property owners - a participation rate far exceeding the average BC civic elections participation.

Question 8 of the questionnaire determined that the majority of respondents favoured the preservation of DL 1375 as an Ecological Reserve.

Question 9 specifically asked whether the respondent would agree to an Island tax to purchase 1375. 59% of respondents to this question answered " YES ".

Question 16 determined that the preservation of greenspace on Savary was " important " to 81% of respondents.