Over the past several months, the SWBC Recreation and Conservation Committee has worked on a range of matters. The following highlights some of these issues and the work by Committee members.
Tetrahedron Provincial Park – Proposed Boundary Adjustment
Tetrahedron Provincial Park is a scenic and mountainous Class A Park, which has a string of four backcountry cabins and a network of trails maintained and managed by the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club, a member club of the FMCBC. Due to drought conditions experienced by the Sunshine Coast in the last several years, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) proposed drawing down the water in the Chapman Lake (the largest lake within the park) to increase the water supply to Sunshine Coast communities. While not opposed to the SCRD’s use during Stage 4 water restrictions of the temporary siphon installed at Chapman Lake in 2017, the FMCBC opposed increasing the allowable draw down from 3m to 8m. The proposed drawdown would require construction of a road and facilities not permitted under a Park Use Permit. As a result, amendments to the park’s boundaries were proposed to remove Chapman Lake from the park.
The FMCBC and member clubs were very concerned about the limited options being considered by the SCRD and BC Parks and by the precedent that would be set if the Park’s boundaries were amended to deal with water shortages or other crises caused by climate change. The FMCBC believes Class A parks and other protected areas should not be compromised to respond to water shortages or other crises caused by climate change, particularly when long-term planning and management could avoid such crises.
The FMCBC was also very concerned by BC Parks’ public consultation process. Among the concerns was the inconsistency between the public online survey and the printed survey available at the Open Houses on the Sunshine Coast. While the printed survey allowed the public to express a preference for maintaining the status quo with explanation, or to propose another option, those options were not available in the online survey. In our view this created a misleading and biased public consultation process.
To our knowledge, the final decision has not yet been made by the Minister of Environment. There is some speculation that a decision will not be made until after the October 20th local government elections because the new SCRD may wish to investigate and consider alternative options to address the Sunshine Coast water supply.
Singing Pass Trail, Garibaldi Park – Parking and Access Proposal
Resolution of the Singing Pass parking and access issues remains a work in progress. For some historic context, motorized access to the Singing Pass trailhead was lost in the 1990s when there was a major slump on the upslope side of the old access road leading to the Singing Pass trailhead. Although there is a tenuous hiking trail over the slump, the lack of motorized access to the old trailhead has increased the round trip to Singing Pass to 28 km. This is farther than most people can comfortably hike in a day. Parking restrictions imposed by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) compound the access difficulties for both day and overnight park visitors. Overnight parking for park visitors is limited to six designated spaces in Lot 4. Singing Pass can be accessed via the Whistler/Blackcomb lift system, but the cost of a lift ticket (more than $60/per adult) is prohibitive for many members of the public, particularly families; the hiking distance and time is not significantly less than for the Singing Pass trail; and, the Whistler/Blackcomb lift hours are not conducive to early starts and long days.
The FMCBC, a number of SWBC outdoor clubs, and the Spearhead Huts Society are investigating alternative access options to Singing Pass and Garibaldi Park. In July, the FMCBC, representatives from ACC-Whistler, ACC-Vancouver, BCMC and Spearhead Huts Society met with Innergex to investigate the Fitzsimmons IPP site as a possible access point for the public. The meeting with Innergex was positive and the participants were encouraged by the site visit.
The site visit was followed by a facilitated meeting on July 26, 2018 between government (BC Parks, Recreation Sites & Trails, FLNRO-Mountain Resorts and RMOW), stakeholders (Whistler/Blackcomb, Whistler Sliding Center and Innergex) and the FMCBC and club representatives. The meeting was to discuss RSTBC’s evaluation and assessment of various access options, to discuss government and stakeholder feedback, concerns and new information on access options and to consider next steps.
The government representatives and Whistler/Blackcomb, RMOW and Whistler Sliding Centre raised multiple concerns about the Singing Pass Trail and Access Proposal, including budget constraints; high estimated costs to construct and maintain the footbridge and connector trail; security, liability and fire risks; and, the carrying capacity of Singing Pass, raising Joffre Lakes as a cautionary tale. Despite the multiple concerns raised, the FMCBC contingent believes the concerns can be addressed. The focus will be to develop a concrete proposal and cost estimate for a footbridge across the Fitzsimmons Creek, a connector trail to the old Singing Pass trail, and other trail improvements. The FMCBC contingent will work to resolve the concerns identified by government and stakeholders. The FMCBC contingent strongly believes the current access options are too limiting and favour commercial interests. There needs to be reasonable, safer and less costly options for the public to access Garibaldi Park via Singing Pass. While Whistler/Blackcomb’s lift system may remain a preferred option for some, it is far too restrictive and cost prohibitive for many park visitors.
Providing comments on multiple commercial tenure applications
Over the past several months, the FMCBC has commented on a number of commercial recreation tenure applications:
- Sunshine Coast Mountain Adventures Ltd. (heli-assisted hiking, biking, via-ferrata, picnicking and camping on the Sunshine Coast)
- Blackcomb Helicopters Ltd. (heli-assisted mountain biking near Pemberton, BC)
- Bridal Falls Gondola Ltd. (2-year tenure to investigate the feasibility of a gondola at Bridal Falls in the Fraser Valley)
All proposals have implications for existing public recreation use in the proposed tenure areas or adjacent recreation areas.
Pinecone Burke Provincial Park – ongoing park management planning process
There have been no further developments with respect to BC Parks’ Pinecone Burke Provincial Park management plan. As reported in the last Cloudburst issue, in January 2018, the FMCBC and club representatives from ACC-Whistler, VOA, VOC and the BCMC met with Vicky Haberl from BC Parks and a consultant for the Katzie First Nation to discuss the Pinecone Burke Provincial Park planning process and various park issues (i.e., permitted uses, trails, routes, huts, access and parking). BC Parks advised there would be an open house in the summer or fall of 2018 to give the public the opportunity to review the draft management plan and provide comments.
According to the BC Parks website, BC Parks and the Katzie First Nation are still in Stage 2 of the Management Planning Schedule – Development of the Draft Management Plan. Stage 3 is when the draft Management Plan is available for public review and comment. No dates have yet been announced for the public open house.
In conclusion, we wish to thank all Committee participants and contributors for their continued efforts, work and collaboration on these and other matters of interest to the non-motorized backcountry recreation community. If you are interested in any of these or other backcountry access issues, we invite you to join the Committee and bring your skills and energy to help resolve conflicts and create backcountry recreation opportunities for the public.