VIEW FROM THE WILD – What to do with the McArthur Island golf course?

Deer relaxes on McArthur Island in area of old golf course. (Image: Jesse Ritcey)

Kamloops Naturalist Club

Golf at McArthur Island has come to end. What will come next? To answer that question, the Kamloops Naturalist Club has looked into the past for inspiration. Back before golf. Back even further than the settling ponds and a landfill, there was forest.

All of riverfront Kamloops has been built over this riparian forest. It ran along the Thompson rivers and up the creeks. You can still see fragments of it today near the Halston bridge, the pulp mill, Peterson Creek, and where the rivers meet.

Imagine it as it was for a moment. A mix of willows, wild rose, red osier dogwood, and the keystone species, black cottonwood, towering above it all. Drifts of dazzling wildflowers like purple asters, yellow goldenrod, and showy milkweed for the monarch butterflies. Careful, poison ivy rambled along here too. Only the occasional evergreen was seen as ponderosa pine and douglas fir are ill-suited to life next to a river, where every spring water and sediment spilled over the river banks, exchanging nutrients with this valuable forest zone.

Great Horned Owl at Tranquille Creek, a species that could return to McArthur Island if some of the tree cover is restored there. (Image: Frank Ritcey)

This forest supported so much life! Owls, ducks, woodpeckers, eagles, painted turtles, snakes, deer, foxes, bear, and beaver to name a few. It fed young salmon who visited during high water. The original inhabitants of this valley, the Tk‘emlúpsemc (people of the confluence), understood its cycles completely and it fed them as well. Now it is mostly gone. The same story is echoed all over the interior – trees cleared away for houses or fields and rivers dredged and diked, leaving flood plains parched. Millions of salmon now missing.

People should remember and understand this forest. There should be a place where all ages can go to learn about it. That is what the Kamloops Naturalist Club has in mind for the golf course land.

We hope that time spent here will foster greater appreciation for nature. That people will come away wanting to protect what’s left of the cottonwood riparian ecosystem, the salmon, the water, and the trees. That given the opportunity they’ll support community efforts to restore this ecosystem.

We agree that keeping some of the greens is a good idea. Add some benches under the large weeping willows and it will create a pleasant new park. However, grass needs water and mowing which can get expensive. Returning parts of the space to their natural state also makes sense as it will lower maintenance costs and offer environmental and social benefits.

Studies show that time spent in nature reduces aggression, treats depression and anxiety, and speeds along cognitive development. In our wired society children are said to be suffering from what author Richard Louv calls ‘nature deficit disorder’. They need to spend less time in virtual worlds and more time exploring the real one.

Teachers want to take more lessons out of the classroom so students can engage in hands on learning but McQueen lake is already at capacity. They need an easily reached space within the city.

Unfortunately, most of our wild areas are inaccessible. Park trails are often steep or remote. Highly developed areas like the North Shore offer little within walking distance for seniors and youth.

The 15 acres of land the golf course occupies plus the adjacent trail loop, slough, and wooded area holds the solution.

Enjoying the tranquility of McArthur Island. (Image: Gary Hunt)

Imagine a place with a wheelchair-accessible path. Real nature to explore. Educational signs to learn from. Wildflower gardens for our pollinators.

Imagine viewing platforms at the ponds to watch turtles, toads, and tadpoles. Seating for school groups. Classes, guided tours, and group activities for all ages.

There’s projects that the entire family can work together on like releasing salmon fry, building snake hibernaculums, and putting up bat boxes. Learning can continue on weekends and during the summer.

Done well this nature park and education centre can draw in tourists and contribute to Kamloops’ growing reputation as a sustainable, liveable city so we can attract that next tech startup or another oncologist at RIH.

Sports tournaments are great but lots of people are also interested in opportunities for passive recreation, things like pleasant strolls, birdwatching, painting, photography, and immersing themselves in nature. We can offer it all at McArthur Island!

Our club has been busy identifying grants and funding sources, lining up volunteer groups, holding meetings with educators and putting our team of scientists, foresters, horticulturists, biologists, and landscape architects to work developing a concrete plan to make this dream a reality.

The forest we had long ago chopped down and forgotten is ready to send up green shoots. It can teach us incredible things about the natural world and ourselves. Will our community and city council share in this vision?


The Kamloops Naturalist Club urges members of the public to attend the open houses the City of Kamloops is hosting. Whether you wish to speak in support of our vision, the Armchair Mayor’s, or something else entirely, make your voice heard on:

Saturday, December 2, 2017
Northills Shopping Centre, near Interior Savings Credit Union
11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre, Main Lobby
5-7 p.m.

You can also stop by the Tournament Capital Centre on Dec. 3-5 to fill out a survey and leave your ideas for City staff.

About Mel Rothenburger (6241 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on VIEW FROM THE WILD – What to do with the McArthur Island golf course?

  1. Terrific idea from Jesse and the Naturalist Club. I fully support it. Having a re-wilding natural area in the middle of the city would be a jewel much like Stanley park in Vancouver or Central Park in New York. Think ahead for citizens of the future who will appreciate the foresight.

  2. rcktrnr097gmailcom // November 29, 2017 at 6:54 AM // Reply

    Awesome. I will take advantage of one of those opportunities.

  3. This is a wonderful idea. There is always a need, as a city grows, to have areas that can exhibit where the city came from. Children need to know this as well as some adults who seem to have no idea of our environment.

  4. I agree with the Kamloops Naturalist Club

  5. I remember running around the Island for PE on Fridays when I attended McArthur Park Junior Secondary. Coming home after 35 years on the coast, it was a shock to see it is no longer a public school, but my heart warmed with the changes I saw to the Island. It is well designed, maintained and used – a rare jewel. I’m not a golfer so I won’t miss the course, nor the risk of being beaned by a ball as I stroll around it with all the others. The opportunity to have the course revert to a more natural habitat is outstanding and should be grasped with eager hands. It would be a perfect complement to the sports aspect of the Tournament Capital’s exceptional facilities. Team sports are important, and very popular. But the natural environment is what we are ALL a part of, and helping our citizens become more aware of our basic and ultimate roots can only benefit us all in both the short and long term.

  6. Well, if Kenna Cartwright park and Peterson Creek park are any indication of what the City is capable and willing then McArthur Island will always be “clinging to life” sort of speak.
    But the idea of another park for passive recreation is wonderfu. The Kamloops Naturalist Club should perhaps have a leading role not the City.

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