Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Reginal Peace Park: Restoring, Regenerating and Rewilding Nature


Restoring, Regenerating and Rewilding Nature for Present and Future Generations

Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park at the Cape presents an extraordinary opportunity to create a bridge to a future where people in the regional district of Metro Vancouver have learned to live in harmony and peace with Nature. The proposed Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional
Peace Park aligns with UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme 1, an internationally acclaimed programme with the goal of ensuring human health and welfare in an enduring and livable environment, while cultivating opportunities for sustainable development. This programme is represented locally through the designation on September 15, 2021of the UNESCO Átl'ka7tsem/Howe Sound Biosphere.
2, 3

Proposed Principles for the Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park

The proposed vision for Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park is grounded in agreed upon principles that respect, honour, and support:
• Nature first, if we as humans want to survive the upcoming decades
• Our relationship with Nature for spiritual, mental, emotional, physical health and well-being
• Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw as the land is part of their unceded territory
• Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) community who are and will be the primary stewards of the land.The proposed vision for Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park is grounded in agreed upon principles that respect, honour, and support:
• Nature first, if we as humans want to survive the upcoming decades
• Our relationship with Nature for spiritual, mental, emotional, physical health and well-being
• Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw as the land is part of their unceded territory
• Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) community who are and will be the primary stewards of the land and hosting the millions of people on the island over the years
• Children and youth in the region who are distressed about climate change
• Visitors from the regional district and beyond
These principles are also consistent with the Regional Parks Plan Guiding Principles as described in the 2022 Regional Parks Plan Protect and Connect. 

In meeting these principles, the Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park will create a joyful legacy of inspiration, hope and peace that feeds the soul of nature, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, the community, and people in the Region for seven generations to come.
On May 9, 2023 Metro Vancouver finalized the purchase of 97 hectares of land at Cape Roger Curtis, an environmentally sensitive dry coastal bluff area on the southern tip of Bowen Island with the intention to designate it as a proposed Regional Park. Prior to the acquisition Metro Vancouver, held community consultations on a proposed land use approach that would require the rezoning of the property from rural residential to park, as well as an amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP) from residential to regional park use. The rezoning and OCP amendment would allow for 100 supervised overnight tent camping sites.

The first phase of the engagement process is complete, further studies and planning continue. However, the proposal to include 100 overnight tent campsites as well as other unanswered questions including, but not limited to adverse ecological impacts, traffic impacts, increased fire risk and emergency responsiveness, have created conflict and divisiveness. Based on the survey conducted by Metro Vancouver the majority of respondents from Bowen Island did not support any overnight programmes. 

However, Bowen Island respondents did respond favourably to night time nature programs followed by learn to camp programs. 6 All of these concerns beg the question of how to best serve the highest needs of Nature, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, and people in the region, while also not damaging the lives, the spirit, and the soul of the small island community of Bowen Island. Often when resistance and conflicts arise, it is a signal that an alternative vision might better serve the needs of Nature and all parties concerned. The Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park is one such alternative vision.
Respecting Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw and Land in their Unceded Territory
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw may have their own vision for the land at the Cape. Metro Vancouver has indicated that they are in consultation with the First Nation. Whatever Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw’svision is and if it is returning the land to them, then it is my hope that the community of Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) and Metro Vancouver will fully support it. If their vision includes support for the restoration of traditions, language, and culture within the park, or if they find that their vision is aligned with this proposal, I hope that Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, the community of Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) and Metro Vancouver would work together to realize this vision, creating new structures to collaborate, cooperate and build a pool of allies for their vision.
An Unprecedented Opportunity to Restore, Regenerate and Rewild Nature
Vancouver’s total ecological footprint is 1,820,000 gha, or rather an area 170 times bigger than the City’s municipal boundary. Vancouver’s current per capita footprint, including national and provincial services is 3.4 gha/person. Thus approximately 2.0 earths would be required to support the global population if everyone had lifestyles comparable to a Vancouver resident.7 Even with the rise in consciousness about the environment since the 1970s, including an increase in numbers of people visiting parks and camping, we, the top 10% of the global population of adults who collectively own 82% of all the global wealth,8 have driven a record number of species to extinction 9 because of overconsumption of nature’s resources and the amount of waste we throw away.
With the acceleration of climate change, we are now staring into the face of our own demise. The next generations are aware of this dire situation resulting in hopelessness, anxiety and despair. Although traditional campground models have a function, in populated areas, they contribute to management, infrastructure, and ecological burdens as evidenced by the traffic, parking, fires and other issues at existing regional parks. By simply replicating the traditional campground model at the Cape, and which already exists in other regional parks, we will lose a once in a life time opportunity to create a new park model. This new model, through an Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park, will provide the momentum to shift our relationship with the natural world and a call to action to further address climate change.This innovative model for a regional park will offer visitors a more powerfully, immersive experience of nature, such that they feel inspired to restore, regenerate and rewild Nature.
What is an ecospiritual park peace?
Eco means home/household in Greek. In addition to indigenous nations, there are numerous cultures around the world who teach their children that everything has a spirit/energy and that humans are spiritually connected to Nature and must look after the Earth. In the study, Ecospirituality: The Psychology of Moral Concern for Nature, researchers concluded that,

Ecospirituality, over and above environmental attitudes, environmentalist identity, and political orientation, uniquely predicted several aspects of moral concern for nature, such as including nature in one's moral circle, treating nature as a sacred value, and endorsing a reasoning style that places importance on principles and duties to nature.10

A more innovative approach to the proposed new regional park at the Cape will allow Metro Vancouver and the Municipality of Bowen Island to nurture an ecospiritual connection to nature for present and future generations of children and youth. Whereas the current model will simply reinforce the status quo and position future generations to continue to inherit and propagate the legacy of generations of abuse and neglect of nature to support unsustainable lifestyles.
Despite its incredible beauty, the land purchased by Metro Vancouver has been logged and roads, driveways and wells built, however, this new vision for Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Park includes:
• Restoring, regenerating and rewilding as much land as possible including house pads, driveways, and roads (as well as the adjacent waters) while minimizing new infrastructure for the park
• Creating deep, transformational experiences of awe and wonder for park visitors by connecting them to Nature and by inspiring them to engage in opportunities to restore, regenerate and rewild nature in the park
• As part of these immersive experiences, focusing the majority of overnight stays on the land to children and youth as our future leaders

The Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park will be an exceptional model demonstrating that when children, youth and adult visitors are immersed in and taught how to live in reciprocity with Nature, that we can live in peace and harmony with Nature.
Achieving the Vision
Transformative, Immersive Educational Experiences. What if every child in every school in the regional district of Metro Vancouver is invited to come to the Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park in various stages throughout their school career, including day trips in Grade 3, overnight stays in
Grade 4, 5 days in Grade 8, and 7 days in high school? Through sustained ecospiritual teachings, as future leaders our children and youth will learn:

• To live according to nature’s laws, including sharing and taking only what is needed for human survival, awareness of their own ecological footprint, and responsibly steward air, land, earth, and water for themselves and for future generations
• To listen and learn from the air, earth, water, fire as teachers
• To sustainably forage and prepare food from the forest, water and land guided by local knowledge keepers
• To plant and care for forest food gardens as well as biodynamic gardens for food in their meals 11
• Navigation skills including celestial navigation to travel safely on the ocean, day, or night
• Learn how to camp including learning to build campfires
• Fire as a gift. Learning about indigenous fire practices on the land 12
• Processes including ceremonies, ancient and modern to learn to live in reciprocity, giving back to
Nature so all of Nature will continue to thrive

• To restore, regenerate and rewild a diversity of land and ocean habitats in Nature These life transforming connections with nature through experiential outdoor education will inspire new and different ways to think about and demonstrate ways to care about nature.

Practicing Ecospiritual Forestry. We live in a region that was once covered with old growth forest. The old growth forest is long gone and our forests are not healthy. This is equivalent to not having our older generations engaged in growing a healthy society. Old growth forests create habitats where a diversity of
species thrive, produce oxygen for us to breathe, and sequester far more carbon than younger forests.
They provide us with clean water to drink and prevent flooding. Traditional practices of indigenous communities would include ceremonies, listening to trees, sustainable gathering of cedar bark for clothing medicine and including cutting a plank out of a tree, thereby allowing the tree to heal and live. There are
culturally modified trees13 on this island also.
A successful model of ecoforestry, and a foundation to ecospiritual forestry, was pioneered by Merv Wilkinson beginning in 1945 and remains today at Yellow Point on Vancouver Island. Merv Wilkinson visited the Cape and won many awards for his pioneering work in ecoforestry, including the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. 14 Ecospiritual forestry builds on the successes of ecoforestry while at this time acknowledging that our survival depends on renewing our spiritual connection to trees and forests.
What if one of the bold, audacious ecospiritual goals of this park is to regenerate and rewild old growth forest over the next 500-800 years with visitor participation? In the process of regenerating old growth forest, opportunities can be provided for selective harvesting of trees. Children and youth would receive training in what kinds of trees are selected and they would take part in the selection process. They could witness a slice of history as horses are used to drag trees out of the forest, minimizing soil disruption.
Wood dried and milled onsite would be used to build park buildings and other infrastructure. Educational and immersive programming could be developed, including for carving and tool making from wood. In addition, programmes like forest bathing (shinrin yoku) would give children tools for life to destress and calm themselves. By helping children to feel spiritually connected to trees and to realize their own ecological footprint with respect to food from the forest, wood, and paper products, such as toilet paper, they will become more conscious of reducing their footprint and acting for forest health.
Engaging Knowledge Holders. The delivery of ecospiritual education programmes may be facilitated by teachers, elders, and wisdom keepers in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, from the Bowen Island community, as well as from experts across the region in traditional ecological knowledge, ecospiritual forestry,
foraging, forest gardening, biodynamic gardening, ocean sciences, wildlife, and wild spaces.
Less is More Maximizing the greatest amount of land for preservation, restoration, regeneration, and rewilding will require clustering of on-site development and result in less built regional park infrastructure, while also ensuring carbon neutrality. Research needs to be done but it’s likely that this
approach will be less costly to implement, maintain and staff and will reduce risk of fires and other emergencies vs the current proposal for 100 campsites Key infrastructure requirements for the Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park would include 1 or 2 group campsites for 40 people each and/or if supported in principle by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, the construction of a traditional Big House for 40 people using trees and wood from the forest. This Big House would accommodate one class of children/youth, teachers, and supervisors, much like at Cheakamus Centre where they cannot meet the demand for experiential outdoor education.

Year-Round Ecospiritual Programming. The ecospiritual education programme and group campsites/Big House would be operated year-round and be offered to groups who may do their own programming, such as:
• Spirit of the Children Society15, an indigenous, non-profit society based in BC, Canada serving families in Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody to empower and strengthen indigenous families by providing support and resources through various programs.
• Connect Teach Sustain (CTS) Society16 working with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks and Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Foundation offering fully supervised outdoor adventures in regional parks, free to participants. The programme runs through the summer, including Metis guided camps.
• Other children and youth focused groups (e.g., Scouts and Guides)
• Groups of Adults/Families enrolled in ecospiritual programmes

Responding to Community Concerns about Access, Roads, Transportation and Parking

Access to Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park would be by bus only whether for the overnight ecospiritual programmes or day use. Children and youth would arrive and depart with their adult supervisors on one bus at off peak ferry hours and other users of the group sites would do the same. Day Use throughout the year for children, adults and families would be by reservation only. A bus would depart from downtown or other points in the Region and Horseshoe Bay twice a day, morning, and midday, and return from the park mid afternoon and evening. No cars are permitted in the Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park (exceptions below). With the “access by bus only” policy (4-8 buses/day), it might be unnecessary to deforest and put in yet another road to support the Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park. Parking lots would be unnecessary. An exception would be included for maintenance and emergency services provided by Metro Vancouver and Municipality of Bowen Island, including medical, fire, and police services, as well as accessibility requirements for people living with disabilities.

Only residents of Bowen Island would be able to bring a car onto the ferry. This concept is not new as only permanent residents on Iona, a tiny island off the southwest coast of Mull, in Scotland, from 1978 onwards are able to bring their car on the ferry. 17,18 Visitors are required to walk on. Currently 170 permanent residents, mainly sheep crofters, host 130,000 guests per year on Iona, a small island that is 1/2 to 2/3 the size of Bowen Island.
It is my hope that this seed of a vision for Nex̱wlélex̱m Ecospiritual Regional Peace Park will encourage the flow of new ideas and create a collaborative leading edge approach between Nature, Metro Vancouver, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw and the Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) Community. I also hold in my heart that farsighted vision and decision-making with wisdom by all for the Park will strengthen the spirit of nature, children, youth and adult visitors from the Region, creating a powerful legacy of transformation, hope, inspiration, healing and peace for past, present and future generations.

With Love and In Spirit and Peace,
Ellen Hayakawa

Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G2
1 UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme
2 Átl'ka7tsem / Howe Sound Biosphere Region. 3 The Path to Becoming Canada’s 19th UNESCO Biosphere Region
4 Regional Parks Plan Guiding Principles as contained in the 2022 Regional Parks Plan Protect and Connect. Page 7. 5 Proposed Regional Park at Cape Roger Curtis on Bowen Island. Public Engagement Summary. Page 4.
6 Proposed Regional Park at Cape Roger Curtis on Bowen Island. Public Engagement Summary. Page 16. 7 Simon Fraser University. Vancouver Ecological Footprint. Why do we need 2 Earths to support our lifestyles.
8 Research Institute – Credit Suisse. Global Wealth Report. 2019. Page 14. 9 Wild Species 2020. The General Status of Species in Canada. Canadian Endangered Species Conservation.
Council. National General Status Working Group.
10 Ecospirituality: The psychology of moral concern for nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 87,
May 2023.
11 Seeing the garden through the trees: The Indigenous forest gardens of coastal B.C. Canadian Geographic. Updated
March 21, 2023.
12 Indigenous fire keepers and ecologists say it's time to light a careful fire to calm wildfires. CBC News. June 29,
13 Culturally Modified Trees 14 Ecoforestry Institute Society
15 Spirit of the Children Society. 16 Connect Teach Sustain (CTS) Society. 17 The Isle of Iona. 18 Welcome to Argyll and Bute Council. Iona Vehicle Permit. Prohibition of Vehicle Order.
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