East Redonda Ecological Reserve mysteries
Heather Kellerhalls sent me this story about their experience as Ecological Reserve wardens for East Redonda Island.
There is an interesting story about the East Redonda Ecological Reserve, one of the first to be set aside. Ralph and usually made one or two trips a year with our small boat to the reserve. The distance from Quadra Island was not insignificant and depending on weather these voyages were often interesting. Often we spent the night on a nearby floating camp which was usually unoccupied and provided a handy place to tie up our boat and pitch the tent. East RedondoIsland had private property joining the reserve and this is where the story becomes interesting. Usually we would land on the island and observe any changes, also talking with the woman owner of the private land. However on our most recent trip, several fierce looking dogs challenged us and nobody appeared to call them off. We decided it was prudent not to stick around. When we spoke to the nearest person across the inlet, he spoke in very guarded terms when we enquired about the woman, he didn’t always welcome our appearance as he had quite a sizeable marijuana plantation, illegal at that time. We didn’t follow up on another visit until the next year. What a change at our usual landing place on the private property! No dogs this time, and no people. The small cabin was a mess–dishes were broken and strewn on the ground. I picked up a couple which I still have. We also discovered a locked gate nearby and a path leading to what look like a shack and fenced area. There was not a good feeling about this place. After a quick inspection of the actual reserve area, we left for home. The first thing we did next day was phone the police in Powell River and voice our concerns about the private property and the owner. There didn’t seem to be much interest in our story. Then lo and behold a year later we had an urgent call from the police. We were now persons of interest as after investigation of a private property one of the largest marijuana plantations in the area was found on East Redonda island. A very professional one at that–underground grow area, generators, storage and processing area…. We felt more than sheepish that this had been going on underneath our noses, And now we were possibly suspects though after several interviews we were in the clear.
We never heard the full story of the police investigations, but did gather that the property was indeed owned by the woman we thought we knew. Was she the “queen bee” of an American owned operation? Or was she in some way a victim? Where was she? We tried to contact her, with no luck. We pressed the police to treat her as a missing person under suspicious conditions. No luck again as they didn’t seem interested once the plantation was destroyed. Th island reserve never seemed the same after this. Some years later we gave up on our warden duties there and became wardens for the two more easily accessible reserves on Vancouver Island. But we did have many fun and useful trips to East Redonda and climb to the highest point on several occasions, once with son Marcus. Though not a high peak, it is strenuous and somewhat exposed climb, often with snow late in the season enroute. At least one boat journey home was in the dead of night, probably more hazardous than the aforementioned climb.
Incidentally the East Redondo reserve was created because of the abrupt transition from sea level to tree line on one small island. Also and maybe more relevant, was the fact that Vladimir Krajina, the father of ecological reserve program, just happened to be flying over the island and they came all enthused about what he saw down below!