Finalist, 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing
A fascinating account of the century-long effort to define, access, preserve, develop, and exploit the uniquely beautiful area of rugged wilderness now known as Strathcona Provincial Park on Central Vancouver Island.
Strathcona Provincial Park is situated in the middle of Vancouver Island, bordering Clayoquot Sound on the west, Port Alberni on the south, and a large property once known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) land grant on the east. Measuring 250,000 hectares, this breathtaking park, with its gorgeous mountains, lakes, and waterfalls, is a nature lover's paradise. Yet behind this picture of serenity lies a volatile history.
A Journey Back to Nature: A History of Strathcona Provincial Park takes a comprehensive look at this rich, beautiful stretch of wilderness and the competing interests that struggled to protect it, define it, and/or control it—from Indigenous Peoples, who have lived on the land for millennia, to European explorers and industrialists, who could not see beyond the wealth of its natural resources, to early conservationists and enterprising settlers, who wished to preserve the area as a wilderness playground for BC's booming population and nascent tourist industry. Over the course of a century, Strathcona Provincial Park was frequently at the centre of some of the most heated public debates in BC history, between economic and environmental interests. This detailed account—lavishly illustrated with archival and contemporary photographs and maps—uncovers the intriguing history, complex legacy, and majestic natural beauty of BC's first provincial park.
About the author
Catherine Marie Gilbert is an author, historian, and lecturer, whose interest in BC coastal life, past and present, is evident in her work. In 2018, she completed her master's thesis on the environmental history of Strathcona Provincial Park and obtained her masters degree in Public History from the University of Victoria. She is the author of Yorke Island and the Uncertain War: Defending Canada's Western Coast, and her articles have appeared in Western Mariner, BC Historical Federation Journal, BC Studies, and Escape.
- Short-listed, Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing
"Gilbert has meticulously consulted books, reports, government documents, and archives to document the evolution of this unique property. ... This is an important history of this huge, iconic Park."
—British Columbia Magazine
"Gilbert’s presentation delivers a solid and necessary read for anyone interested in environmental conservation and how battles were won and lost against the industrial machine, backed directly and indirectly by power-hungry consumers." —Miramichi Reader