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Beach bombs close Pacific Rim dunes

May 09 2012

The Wickaninnish Sand Dunes in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are likely to remain closed for much of the summer while the Department of National Defence sweeps the area looking for unexploded munitions.

Simultaneously, DND will be sifting through records from the Second World War to figure out if old grenades, mortars or ammunition could still be buried in the dunes.

The decision to close the area, which is about the size of three football fields, was made in the interest of public safety, said Renee Wissink, the park's manager of resource conservation.

An old mortar was discovered in the dunes in February. It was exploded by DND personnel who then went back in their files to figure out whether any more Unexploded Explosive Ordnances could be in the area, he said.

They concluded that, with the shifting sands, it was possible there could be other explosives even though the area was swept before it became a park in the early 1970s. DND's UXO and Legacy Sites Program then recommended temporarily restricting access to the dunes. "It was a training area for the Canadian Forces in the 1940s and 1950s," Wissink said. "It was used by the air force as well as an army contingent as part of the coastal surveillance, so they did training with various types of munitions - grenades, large calibre rifles, mortars and air to surface training."

Parks Canada decided it would be prudent to close the area while they do a risk assessment and sweep the area, Wissink said.

Wickaninnish Beach will remain open and people will be able to walk safely in front of the dunes, Wissink said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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