A large group of volunteers with Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park worked hard to protect local ecosystems on Thursday, Oct. 17 and Saturday, Oct. 19

Volunteers help protect Kal Lake Park from future wildfires

The Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park cleared out ponderosa pines encroaching on grasslands

Teams of volunteers took to Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park last week to help keep it safe from the next wildfire season.

Armed with saws and branch cutters, the volunteer group known as the Friends of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park (FKLPP) removed a number of small ponderosa pines growing densely around the paved park road leading to the Twin Bays parking lot.

By clearing out the trees, the volunteers cut down on the amount of natural fuels that can lead to the spreading of wildfire in the summer months.

“Fuel reduction and tree removal are key strategies identified in B.C. Park’s new Kalamalka Lake Park Management Plan for maintaining grasslands within the park,” said organizer Simone Runyan, a local biologist and board member of FKLPP.

Because ponderosa pines drop so many flammable needles, an area with widely scattered trees will burn with less heat and intensity than a dense forest. Clearing out the ponderosas will allow for other species of trees and foliage to grow with less risk of fire, according to the group.

“All this was accomplished with a wonderful sense of community and united purpose as park staff and local volunteers worked together,” said Runyan.

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“Kal Park’s grasslands are precious because more than half of the bunchgrass habitat in the Okanagan has already been lost, and much of what remains is threatened by invasive plants, habitat disturbance and tree encroachment,” Runyan added. “They provide homes for rare and more common wild species, as well as iconic images of golden bunchgrass, emerald pines and the turquoise lake which entice so many tourist and new residents.”

A total of 16 volunteers populated the park on Thursday, Oct. 17, including B.C. Park Ranger Nicole Keir, park users and residents in the area. Another 14 volunteers were there on on Saturday to continue the work.

As Runyan explains, the clear-out came after a lengthy waiting game.

“B.C. Parks is working with the District of Coldstream to plan for fuel reduction in Kal Park. However, area residents have been expecting action for more than four years and still no definitive timeline for the work exists,” she said.

The work is a continuation of a previous project by FKLPP in 2013 and more extensive tree thinning and limbing by the BC Wildfire Service in 2005, as well as other controlled burns and fuel reduction efforts in the park.

The volunteers removed the small trees before they could grow big enough to transform the ecosystem and make for harder removal. The FKLPP covered the costs through donations and membership fees.

Those interested in joining the FKLPP are invited to visit kalamalkapark.ca for more information. To view the new Kalamalka Lake Park Management Plan released by B.C. Parks in September, visitenv.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/kalamalka-lk/.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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