The SWBC Recreation and Conservation Committee and other FMCBC members have worked on a range of issues over the past several months. The following highlights some of this work.
Increased Funding for BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC
At the end of June 2019, the FMCBC made written submissions to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to increase funding for both BC Parks and Recreations Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC). For BC Parks, the FMCBC requested an increase from BC Parks’ current budget of $40.48 million to $100 million, consistent with the requests made by other NGOs, such as the Elders’ Council, CPAWS, BC Parks Foundation, Outdoor Recreation Council of BC and Western Canada Wilderness Committee. A substantive increase in funding is needed to:
- increase BC Parks’ management and planning capacity and ranger resources (seasonal and full-time)
- fund replacement and repair of aging and hazardous infrastructure
- increase park facilities, such as campsites, outhouses and trails
- to allow BC Parks to proactively facilitate and support volunteer partnership programs
With respect to RSTBC, the FMCBC requested a substantive budget increase for more regional RSTBC staff, which are inadequate to maintain and manage the trails and recreation sites within their respective districts and to respond to the numerous applications for legal authorization to build or maintain trails submitted by member clubs and other trail associations. RSTBC staff are completely dependent on volunteers to carry out maintenance of trails and infrastructure.
The FMCBC also raised RSTBC’s lack of funds for access road maintenance, resulting in the loss of access to popular trails or restricting access to those with high-clearance 4WD vehicles. Examples are the Nesakwatch Forest Service Road, providing access to both the Slesse Memorial and Mt. Rexford trails; and, the Marion Creek Forest Service Road on Vancouver Island, which provides access to many popular mountain peaks and the new 5040 Peak Hut constructed by the ACC-Vancouver Island Section.
The Select Standing Committee issued their Report on the Budget 2020 Consultations in August 2019. The Report referenced the submissions made by the FMCBC and by Dave King (Caledonia Ramblers) on behalf of the Prince George Backcountry Recreation Society. The Select Standing Committee made the following recommendation for Parks and Recreation:
32. Increase operational funding for BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC to support staffing, monitoring and enforcement, maintenance, public safety, and recreational infrastructure and services, including promoting and supporting volunteer efforts.
Although Dave King and the FMCBC had advocated for increased funding for RSTBC in 2018, the Select Standing Committee did not include increased funding for RSTBC in their 2019 Budget recommendations. So, we are very pleased that increased funding for RSTBC was included in the 2020 Budget recommendations. The RSTBC representatives that we met in September 2019 were also pleased by the Select Standing Committee’s recommendation and expressed their appreciation for the submissions made by the FMCBC and others.
With respect to BC Parks, the FMCBC has another opportunity to advocate for more funding for our provincial parks in late November at a meeting with Minister George Heyman (BC Parks, Environment and Climate Change). With the “Great Parks, Great People Summit” scheduled for October 15-17, 2020, the year leading up to the conference will be an opportune time to highlight the need for more funding and staffing for BC Parks.
To help the FMCBC’s advocacy efforts for BC Parks, we are looking for current photos that document the state of our provincial parks — both good and bad. So, take a look at your photos from this past summer, snap some new shots while you are out on the trails this fall and winter, and send your photos and details to Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be as specific as possible with the location of each photo. GPS coordinates are best, but not necessary. For some great examples of past photos, check out our #FundBCParks album on Facebook or view our #FundBCParks photo map.
We want photos from all parts of the province. If your club has done trail work in provincial parks over the summer, we would love to see photos of your team at work and/or the finished product. We are also interested in hearing about any deficiencies in park management that you or your club has experienced.
Singing Pass Trail and Access – Update
Efforts to improve public access to Garibaldi Park from Whistler via Singing Pass and overnight parking (winter and summer) are ongoing. While the Whistler/Blackcomb lift system may be a preferred option for some, particularly in winter, it is far too restrictive (i.e., lifts are not operational year-round and lift hours are limited when in operation) and costly for many park visitors. With the first Spearhead hut now open, more overnight parking is needed (winter and summer), as well as a reasonable, safe and less costly option for the public to access Singing Pass in Garibaldi Park.
Over the past several months, Jay MacArthur (ACC-Vancouver), Bryce Leigh (ACC-Whistler), and Barry Janyk have met with the various stakeholders: Whistler/Blackcomb, Resort Municipality of Whistler (Mayor J. Crompton), Innergex, Whistler Sliding Center, BC Parks and RSTBC. While overnight parking in winter remains a challenge, it appears Lot 8 will be available for overnight parking in the summer. There is tentative approval from Innergex, Whistler and the Sliding Center for a new route from Lot 8 on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek; and, Peter Taylor, an ACC-Vancouver member and P.Eng., has designed a footbridge to cross Fitzsimmons Creek near the IPP. Also discussed is the possibility of a shuttle service to the Innergex IPP. Slow but positive progress has been made on this long-standing access issue.
Rainbow Lake Winter Non-Motorized Update
In July, Bryce Leigh (ACC-Whistler) and Monika Bittel met with the snowmobile representatives, Alistair McCrone (RSTBC) and a representative from the Resort Municipality of Whistler for an end-of-season review of the implementation this past winter of the new protocol for the 21 Mile/Rainbow Lake non-motorized area. It was acknowledged that there had been significantly better compliance by the snowmobilers with the non-motorized boundaries, which was largely due to the concerted efforts of the snowmobile community. This summer, RSTBC continued with its implementation plan and installed a gate at the south end of the Callaghan FSR road (the highway end). The gate will be closed if compliance is not maintained. The snowmobilers reported that efforts to GPS map non-motorized areas, such as Mt. Sproatt, will also help snowmobilers comply with non-motorized boundaries. All acknowledged that the challenge will be maintaining the compliance level in subsequent winters. A solution to Hanging Lake, which is the area with the highest conflicts, is also needed. While Hanging Lake is motorized, it is also one of the prime ski touring destinations within the Rainbow Lake-Sproatt area.
Upper Skagit River Watershed Update
Efforts to save the Upper Skagit River Watershed, also known as the “Donut Hole”, are ongoing. For those unfamiliar with the area, the Skagit Headwaters is an unprotected area of approximately 5,800 hectares sandwiched between Manning and Skagit Provincial Parks, and includes three main drainages: Smitheram, Silverdaisy and 26 Mile Creeks.
Ken Farquharson, Tom Perry, along with NGOs in BC (CPAWS, ORC, Wilderness Committee) and various Washington state organizations continue to advocate for a firm and permanent commitment to the cessation of commercial forestry activities in the Donut Hole and definitive steps to acquire the Giant Copper claims so that these drainages can be returned to our provincial park system. While there has been no further logging in the Watershed to date, there is still no word about the status of Imperial Mines’ application for a 5-year exploratory permit with respect to the Giant Copper claims. A further meeting with Minister Heyman is scheduled for the end of November 2019, which will be attended by the FMCBC. However, requests for a follow-up meeting with Minister Donaldson (Forests, Natural Resources) and a meeting with Minister Mungall (Energy, Mines) have been unsuccessful to date.