It’s Oregon Ash; in Latin, it’s Fraxinus latifolia. And it has a confused story. One confusing thing about it is that besides the trees on Vancouver Island, the rest are in the United States. Another is that my sources are divided on whether it is a native tree, introduced, or naturalized.
The Conservation Data Centre of BC regards it as a native tree, and has designated it S1S2 which means imperiled or critically imperiled. But it muddies the situation when the report comments “Only 2 of the populations (Port Alberni and, Saanich) appear to be of native origin.” Apparently, they can also be found in some urban landscapes around Victoria and Duncan.
In the United States, the natural range of this tree extends through Puget Sound south to Southern California.
What’s it look like, you may wonder. It’s a deciduous broad-leafed tree. It doesn’t get all that tall. It is the only native tree around here that has a compound leaf. The seeds have wings similar to maple seeds. You’ll find it around wet fertile areas where there is lots of black organic mater, not peat.
I know where there are some specimens. But because they are considered imperiled you’ll have use torture to get me to say where. But I think there are more that haven’t been discovered. So if you are out for a walk, keep your eyes open for this tree.
But don’t mistake it for an introduced ash tree in someone’s yard. There are two other Ashes that are planted around here: European Ash and Green Ash. I’m going to leave how to tell these apart for you to research.
There is a debate in town about whether this place should be a tourist attraction. Some say it already is. Others say “keep it as is”. And other issues swirl around it. The actual location of the hole is on land owned by the City of Port Alberni, but getting to it is on land controlled by Mosaic Forest Management. They are not known for welcoming people on their property without due notice. And there is more stuff too. Here are a few shots of it to illustrate what else is there.
I was surprised to hear from a friend in Victoria that one of my favourite Recreation sites is closed to overnight camping, and it is closed for the foreseeable future according to Robert van der Zalm, the BC Coast Regional Manager for Recreation Sites & Trails. The site is closed for all of this year. He said a review of service levels will be conducted in the fall. I guess that means looking at the budget. So there is no guarantee it will ever be open for camping again.
But it is a beautiful campsite, the most beautiful in the Alberni area. You camp in a large stand of very tall old Douglas Fir and Hemlock. There are 12 sites, some of which are a short walk in. A wild creek thunders down the mountainside past the campsite. A little path allows you to get great views of it. A long rocky beach with willows and logs piled around allows visitors to have a swim and some privacy as well if you want. When we last visited, we saw someone on a paddleboard across the lake at the other recreation site, Blackie’s Beach. The access is remote, but it is a bumpy two-wheel-drive all the way. That site is not closed, but has only 6 sites.
This campsite is mentioned several times on the web. And there are more websites about the circle route, the drive from Port Alberni south along the western shore of the Alberni Inlet before turning inland and up along the north side of Nahmint Lake to the campsite at the north end. From there the road continues to a junction. The right fork takes you up and over a pass with Gracie Lake in it, before descending to Sproat Lake. When you get close to the lake a fork takes you eastward, back to Port Alberni.
The Nahmint Lake area is popular. Patti and I did the driving tour last weekend. We encountered people all along the route, and even on a side tour upriver from the lake. Where we crossed a big bridge over the river at the north end of the lake, a fellow on a bicycle showed up. He had started in Port Alberni, 56 km back. And he had another 27 km to go back to town. Some of them were fishermen. Others were touring on motorcycles. And some were just out for a picnic by the lake, like us.
The gate to the Nahmint site is closed and a sign is posted announcing the closure of the site due to “overhead hazards caused by dangerous trees.” But there is a small turnout by the gate where there is room to park and walk down to the site. I didn’t see any wind-thrown trees hung up in other trees or anything. I did observe a few dead trees with limbs that could break off. Each has a number spray-painted on the trunk. One of them had the top broken off, and the top had driven itself into the soil a good two feet in its fall. It is truly alarming to think what that could have done to someone.
However, it does seem a shame to think that government isn’t providing enough money to keep a popular Recreation site open.