Long-term media attention to activities at Fairy Creek is contributing to “negative effects” for Port Renfrew businesses, says the community’s chamber of commerce.
Blockades have been set up in the Fairy Creek area to protest against old-growth logging.
“While the overall protection of these magnificent and treasured old-growth forests are integral to the environment and our brand, the way in which this is being carried out is not conducive to the betterment of Port Renfrew,” the chamber said in a statement, referring to the confrontations in the area. That includes media reports in recent days on clashes between the RCMP and the protesters “to an extent visitors are now questioning traveling not only to Avatar Grove but also to Port Renfrew itself due to safety concerns.”
The chamber said that both Port Renfrew and Avatar Grove “are safe and accessible without passing close to the protester encampment.”
Those going to Avatar Grove go through an RCMP check point 2.5 kilometres from the site before reaching an “old-growth experience,” the statement said.
“They’re asked a couple of questions to make sure that they’re not activists or protesters,” said chamber president Karl Ablack
Ablack said the issues for business have been there for some time, even though Port Renfrew is about 15 kilometres from what is going on.
“We want people to know that the Fairy Creek blockade situation is quite a ways from Port Renfrew and does not impact the standard traveler in and out of Port Renfrew, or any of our attractions.”
He said chamber members have been hearing about visitors’ concerns.
“We’re getting phone calls and emails from basically other chambers of commerce, tourist information centres and from people directly,” he said. “Anything that impedes people or makes them think that there’s a situation that they don’t want to immerse themselves in or get involved in is going to steer them away.”
Protests have gone on despite the fact that logging in about 2,000 hectares of old growth around Fairy Creek and the upper Walbran was deferred by the provincial government in June, after a request by three First Nations.
As of Tuesday, 796 arrests have been made in the area. The arrests have come since police began enforcing a court junction in May.
The injunction forbids blocking access for the Teal-Jones Group, which has logging rights in the area.