Malcolm Knapp Research Forest Renewal Project

Reimagining UBC Forestry’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest: A hub for nature-based research and education

At Malcolm Knapp Research Forest (MKRF), where nature envelops us, our connection with the outdoors reminds us of its beauty as well as our responsibility to protect it for sake of our collective future and that of the many other lifeforms on the planet. Stepping into the forest reveals towering trees, native woodpeckers, owls, eagles, and the vibrant sounds of the outdoors. MKRF, bordered by Golden Ears Provincial Park near Maple Ridge, provides not only an immersive natural experience but also hosts forest schools and vital ongoing research within its outdoor laboratory.

Operated by UBC Forestry on a self-funding model since 1949, MKRF spans over 5,000 hectares. This working forest includes the Loon Lake Lodge and Retreat Centre, an independently operated sawmill, harvesting operations, and longitudinal research studies. It is home to countless species of plants and animals, as well as access roads and trails for hiking and walking.

Additionally, MKRF’s forest classroom enables year-round Wild & Immersive outdoor educational programming for children and youth, along with forestry field schools for undergraduate students and researchers, covering various aspects of forestry, conservation, and land management. The opportunity to work and learn in the forest is vital for future forestry and land managers to gain hands-on experience. The research trials conducted here play a crucial role in informing public policy and best practices, especially as we strive to ensure the sustainable management of our forested ecosystems well into the future.

Vision for the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest Renewal Project

New and expanded facilities are needed in place of aging infrastructure and in response to growing demand for its exceptional educational, research and public outreach opportunities. The renewal goal is to create a hub for engagement and knowledge mobilization, inspiring visitors and informing decision-making about the future of forest and ecosystem management. The plan involves:

  • Establishing a Welcome & Education Centre spanning 10,000 square feet; the goal is to encourage public engagement and patronage, enhance the facility’s ability to host larger school groups and create more spaces for on-site equipment, research archives, offices, and meeting rooms.
  • Building an Outdoor Learning Lab in place of the current shop yard, featuring a much-needed fire response hub in case of wildfires, an indoor flex classroom area, outdoor teaching area, wood shop, and open office space area that can be accessed by community groups.
  • Expanding on-site accommodations by renovating the historic Marc House to host more faculty members and researchers from other institutions to conduct leading forestry research at MKRF.

Fast Fact about MKRF:

» 5,157

hectares of coastal forest (Coast Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone)

» 1,100

research studies have taken place at MKRF. Some ongoing studies are among the most longstanding in North America

» 40,000

visitors to MKRF annually with the potential to accommodate many more with the right facilities in place

» 10,000

children & youth have participated in the Wild & Immersive program since launching in 2018

» 18

lakes, numerous streams and several ecological watersheds

» 15

kilometers of hiking trails

“The generosity of donors can help realize our dream to reimagine the entire entrance area of the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest, including establishing a Welcome & Education Centre, Outdoor Learning Lab and accommodation for researchers and visiting scholars.”

– Hélène Marcoux, Manager, Malcolm Knapp Research Forest

Collaborating with community

MKRF has well-established relationships with local communities built on shared priorities and values. Situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the q̓icəy̓ (Katzie) people, the forest has long been managed to recognize Katzie values and traditions, making it available for traditional, cultural, and ceremonial purposes. In turn, Katzie community members play a crucial role in teaching MKRF students about their culture, fostering a desire for increased collaboration in the future.

Local organizations and school districts often collaborate with MKRF, providing unique learning opportunities and experiences. For instance, MKRF hosts school district 42’s renowned Environmental School and year-round Wild & Immersive outdoor educational programming, attracting over 10,000 participants since 2018. Additionally, the Loon Lake Lodge and Retreat Centre serves as a venue for conferences, seminars, and events. Since 1949, MKRF has also been a welcoming space for UBC Forestry, researchers, industry professionals, and collaborators from the BC Ministry of Forests.

Why now?

The former ‘Gatehouse’ building that the Welcome & Education Centre replaces was completed in the mid-1960s. Without a clearly defined main entrance facility, people visiting the forest have often wandered through the MKRF grounds, walking along access roads used by heavy machinery and trucks needed for forest operations. The space was originally not intended as a public facility but as modest office space for a skeletal UBC staff that would manage the site.

While the neighboring community of Maple Ridge is now just beyond the gates of the forest, MKRF is still without access to municipal services, such as potable water. Through this project, a major investment to bring utilities to the forest will be undertaken, ensuring clean and safe drinking water and higher sanitary standards for all who visit this wilderness at the edge of BC’s densely populated Lower Mainland.