After the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway in the fall of 1914, logging and other industrial activities started to develop in and around the Whistler Valley.
Logging was a vital industry in the Whistler area throughout the 20th century and evidence of its impact can be found throughout the valley, from the abandoned Parkhurst logging town on Green Lake to various patches of forest in different states of regrowth.
The Whistler Interpretive Forest, located off Highway 99 adjacent to Cheakamus Crossing, was created in 1980 as a joint project between the British Columbia Forest Service and Pacific Forest Products Ltd. to provide forest interpretation and education opportunities while demonstrating integrated resource management. The area is approximately 3,000 hectares.
The earliest logging in the Interpretive Forest began in 1958 and continues into present day. The area now consists of old growth stands plus a variety of plantations of differing ages. The Forest Service manages this area to provide benefits for large numbers of people with diverse interests. Many things are considered in planning for human needs in the forest: hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, biking, as well as continued logging operations.
The Whistler Interpretive Forest became part of the Cheakamus Community Forest (33,000 hectares) in 2009. The Community Forest is managed under an ecosystem-based management approach and run jointly by the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and the Ministry of Forests. This means that indigenous flora and fauna are given a chance to flourish and recreational opportunities and expand, while new sustainable forestry practices are explored and refined. Under this management regime, an average of 40 hectare per year is harvested.
The area has become a favourite amongst locals and tourists, with many of Whistler’s most popular trails located in the area. The trail network includes the Riverside Trail, which explores the Cheakamus River with the help of the MacLaurin Crossing suspension bridge.
The bridge was named after Don MacLaurin, a local forester who helped develop, map and design the area to help people understand the forest and its importance. Other popular trails include the Loggers Lake Trail, which climbs a rock bluff to a hidden lake and a wooden pier, and the Cheakamus Trail, which wanders through the forest to the glacier-fed Cheakamus Lake.
Scattered amongst the roads and trails in the area are interpretive displays about the local flora, fauna, geology and logging history, along with details about the forest types of the region and the replanting techniques used in the Interpretive Forest.
The Whistler Rotary Club, with financial help from the Community Foundation of Whistler, have been updating the interpretation displays and signs in the Whistler Interpretive Forest over the past two years, as many have fallen into disrepair. The Whistler Museum has been a supportive partner in this project, helping with the design and, at times, installation of these new signs.
More information on this project can be found at: cheakamuscommunityforest.com.