The Merchants Trust and Trading Company owned a large area that encompassed the Qualicum Beach Golf Course, the original Qualicum Beach Inn, and six large lots along what is now Crescent Road East. In 1913, Brigadier General Noel Money bought the property while on a fishing trip to Canada from England. When he died in 1941, the six lots were sold to Major James Lowery of Calgary-based Home Oil. Bobby Brown took over ownership of Home Oil in 1954 along with what became known as the Brown property. The family used it as a weekend retreat and summer home. Over the years, the Brown Mansion played host to such notable people as the King of Siam (Thailand), John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Shirley Temple, and others. In 1958 the adjacent golf course was sold to Bobby in order to ensure his ocean views were maintained. After he died, in 1972, the family sold the golf course to the Town of Qualicum Beach.
In 1995, the Brown Family Trust decided to sell the Brown Mansion with its five acres plus the fifty acres of forest. In March of 1996, Anne Klees (a local resident), was walking along St. Andrew’s Road when she noticed a piece of paper on the road. It was a detailed map showing plans for the forest to be subdivided into 110 building lots. Anne and her husband Leo contacted their neighbours and as many people as possible about the forest being destroyed. This group formed the Brown Property Preservation Society (BPPS) to raise funds for the purchase of these lands.
In the eight years from 1996 to 2004, hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly to raise $1,250,000, or 68%, of the final purchase price of $1,835,000. The Town of Qualicum Beach contributed the balance from its Parks budget and the Forest was saved from development! This unique struggle to save the Forest shows what a small community can do when it works together to achieve a collective vision. Local residents had decided to keep a distinctive piece of urban forest intact and did so, thereby preserving one of Qualicum Beach’s special places. This massive volunteer effort culminated in the purchase of these lands and offered protection forever.
When the BPPS turned over the property to the Town, the name was changed to the ‘Heritage Forest’. The Town appointed a Heritage Forest Commission, made up of two members of the BPPS, one from Town Council, and two lay persons from the community, to act as stewards of the Forest. The Town is responsible for management and any costs involved in its upkeep.
“Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children…let us turn to them and say, this you inherit: guard it well, for it is far more precious than money… and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price..”
A Conservation Covenant was signed at a ceremony on July 15, 2008 and registered on Title, thereby forming a partnership between the BPPS, the Town of Qualicum Beach and The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC). The Conservation Covenant ensures that these Lands are protected from development and are to be used as a natural preserve for the appreciation and enjoyment of nature by the public, in perpetuity.
The Heritage Forest contains impressive pockets of remnant old growth Douglas-fir trees within a second-growth forest that has grown since selectively logged with horses in the 1910s. These very large trees are a reminder of what those magnificent forests were like prior to development. The old Douglas-fir trees left standing primarily along Beach Creek are at least 500 years old. The oldest tree in the Forest is at least 800 years old.
Today, the Heritage Forest provides old-growth attributes, such as snags and wildlife trees supporting notable key-featured species: Barred Owls, Great- Horned Owls, and Pileated Woodpeckers, among others. The Forest supports a wide variety of flora and fauna, some of which are unique.
The Heritage Forest lies within the Moist Maritime Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic subzone (CDFmm). This forest zone is found in low elevations (sea level to about 150 metres or 435 feet) along southeast Vancouver Island from Bowser to Victoria, including the Gulf Islands. It lies in the rainshadow of adjacent Vancouver Island mountains, resulting in warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Growing seasons here are very long and the CDFmm zone represents the mildest climate in Canada.
It is worth noting that the Heritage Forest represents a substantial portion of all those lands in the Coastal Douglas-fir forest ecosystem that are preserved today.
If you wish to become a Member of the Brown Property Preservation Society, please see our Membership page. Membership forms are also posted in the Forest. BPPS Members can be active (or not) as volunteers in annual trail maintenance, transplanting trees and in the removal of non-native, invasive vegetation.
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BECAUSE OF YOU, THIS FOREST STILL STANDS. WELL DONE!