Southwest BC Recreation and Conservation Committee Report

Singing Pass Trail - Bryce Leigh

Members of the Southwest BC Recreation and Conservation Committee and other FMCBC members have worked on a range of issues over the past several months. Here are some highlights of our work to advocate for, protect, and increase access to non-motorized recreation in southwest BC.

Winter access and parking at Rubble Creek in Garibaldi Provincial Park

In February 2020, the Varsity Outdoors Club (VOC) encountered new “no parking” signs at the Rubble Creek access road, where people normally park in winter to access Garibaldi Lake. The loss of this access road and parking leaves only two winter access points for Garibaldi Provincial Park, namely, Diamond Head and Singing Pass, both of which are at capacity. It also makes it virtually impossible to access Garibaldi Lake, the VOC’s Burton Hut, the traditional and popular Garibaldi Neve Traverse, and surrounding terrain, including Mt. Price, Guard Mountain, Deception Peak, The Sphinx, The Bookworms, Mt. Carr, and Castle Towers.

After BC Parks advised they have no money to plow Rubble Creek, the VOC spearheaded efforts to find a solution. While there were several offers to plow the road, the compact, accumulated snow made plowing impossible for this winter season. Undeterred, the VOC organized a Rubble Creek Trailhead dig-out party. On March 7, about 50 volunteers shoveled 20-24 parking spots and a turn-around area just past a road that branches off to the Sea-to-Sky Retreat.

On March 7, about 50 volunteers shoveled 20-24 parking spots and a turn-around area just past a road that branches off to the Sea-to-Sky Retreat.

BC Parks’ policy of not plowing access roads to provincial parks and parking lots needs to be revisited, particularly in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor. The ever-growing populations in the lower Mainland and Sea-to-Sky communities has shown an increased interest in snowshoeing, winter camping, and ski touring, and any loss of access to non-motorized, backcountry recreation opportunities in the Corridor will simply compound over-capacity issues in other backcountry areas. Further, we simply cannot afford to lose access to Garibaldi Provincial Park because it is the one predictable place where the public will not encounter snowmobiles or helicopters (excluding the Spearhead). The FMCBC will continue to work with VOC and others to find a long-term solution to winter parking at Rubble Creek.

Summer Access and Parking at Singing Pass Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park

The Alpine Club of Canada (Vancouver and Whistler sections) and the FMCBC BC Recreation & Conservation Committee continue work to resolve ongoing summer access and parking problems at Singing Pass.

Special thanks to Jay MacArthur (ACC-Vancouver) and Bryce Leigh (ACC-Whistler) for spearheading this work! See an article where Jay provides a detailed update on how we’re aiming to improve summer access at the Singing Pass trail near Whistler.

Over the past several months, the team has sought approval from: First Nations, Whistler/Blackcomb (use of Lot 8 for parking), Whistler Sliding Center (use of access road), Innergex (use of the right of way at the IPP) and Recreation Sites and Trails BC (section 57 approval). Options for winter overnight parking needs further discussion with Whistler/Blackcomb and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Singing Pass - Jay MacArthurSinging Pass Trail (photo credit: Jay MacArthur)

Long-Term Planning for Sea-to-Sky Corridor

To learn about the strategic planning being undertaken in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, in December 2019, several members from the Recreation & Conservation Committee met with Susan Dain-Owens, a Land and Resource Specialist for the Sea-to-Sky Natural Resource District at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (Ministry of FLNRO).

BC Parks displays considerable increases in visitors at Sea-to-Sky parksThe group reviewed visitor statistics for the Corridor, which has risen considerably over the past several years. Click the graphic from BC Parks to zoom in and download the graph that shows visitors have considerably grown from 2010-2018 at the Sea-to-Sky parks.

View the percentage increase per year from 2001-2017 at each Sea-to-Sky park..
View total visitor usage Crown land trails in summer 2019..

Afterwards, Dain-Owens gave an overview of the US Interagency Visitor Use Management Framework, one of the pilot planning tools being used by the Ministry of FLNRO and BC Parks. The Framework will be tested at the Shannon Basin, Tenquille-Owl Lakes, Joffre Lakes, and Key Hole and Meagre Hot Springs.

If successful, the Framework will guide future recreation authorizations in the Corridor, including motorized/non-motorized zones and recreation infrastructure, such as outhouses and campsites. Although we encourage long-term planning being undertaken in the Corridor, the Rubble Creek access road closure demonstrates we have a long way to go.

Funding for BC Parks

The FMCBC continues to advocate for increased funding for BC Parks. In November 2019, representatives from the FMCBC, Outdoor Recreation Council of BC [ORC], and the BC Parks Elders Council met with Minister Heyman, Deputy Minister Zacharias, and Assistant Deputy Minister Standen regarding the state of our provincial parks.

Fund BC Parks - Eroding Trails at Cypress Hill Provincial ParkAlthough Minister Heyman remained non-committal because of the government’s focus on health, education, and social programs, it was evident that our presentation, which included photos of deteriorated trails and infrastructure in various provincial parks – including South Chilcotin, Granby, Squamish, Cypress, Mt. Seymour, Strathcona, Manning and Kokanee – made an impression. The Minister asked his staff how these areas could be prioritized for maintenance. Unfortunately, the 20 minutes allocated for our meeting was not enough to delve into how BC Parks prioritizes maintenance with such limited resources.

Photo caption: Trail erosion at Cypress Hills Provincial Park (photo source: BC Parks Needs Funding presentation to government officials)

However, in the South Coast, BC Parks advised that ongoing planning processes are taking place for Pinecone Burke Provincial Park and the planning process has started for Mt. Seymour Provincial Park, with First Nations’ consultations being the first step.

While in Victoria, we also met with Liberal MLA, Jordan Sturdy, to discuss Sea-to-Sky issues, including access to the Singing Pass, as well as ongoing issues at BC Parks and RSTBC. Mr. Sturdy was more engaged and supportive on these issues than 18 months ago. We also met with MLA, Peter Milobar, the Liberal Critic for the Environment, and, from our meetings, it was not evident how the Liberals would change their approach to BC Parks funding should they be elected.

Protecting the Upper Skagit River Watershed

We’ve been advocating with other partners to protect the Upper Skagit River Watershed (aka “the Donut Hole”), an unprotected area, sandwiched between Manning and Skagit Provincial Parks. Ken Farquharson and Tom Perry have advocated for the end of commercial logging in the Watershed and acquiring Giant Copper mining claims so that the Donut Hole could be returned to our provincial park system. Their efforts are supported by CPAWS, the ORC, the Western Wilderness Committee, Nature BC, BC Sierra Club, BC Wildlife, and the FMCBC.

In November 2019, Farquharson, Perry, and these partners met with Minister Heyman. Shortly after the meeting, we learnt we could expect some “good news.” On December 4, 2019, the Province announced there would be no more logging in the Donut Hole. However, our efforts to find a solution with respect to mineral claims would continue. Should the Donut Hole be saved, it is anticipated that the area will become some form of protected area, involving the First Nations who have some connection with the area.

Conserving Old Growth through Public Consultations

In January 2020, the FMCBC made written submissions to the Old-growth Strategic Review Panel, consisting of Garry Merkel, a professional forester and member of the Tahltan Nation, and Al Gorley, a professional forester and former chair of the Forest Practices Board. The FMCBC’s submissions highlighted the importance of BC’s “old-growth,” which was particularly valuable for biodiversity, and providing recreational, environmental, and aesthetic values.

To conserve the remaining, fragmented areas of old-growth, we recommended:

1. Legislated protection of old-growth, with an immediate moratorium on the harvesting of endangered old-growth.

2. Preservation of sufficient areas to protect the diverse types of old-growth ecosystems and the wildlife dependent on them, such as the marbled murrelet, spotted owl, and mountain caribou. These areas are determined by studies lead by independent scientists who are not affiliated with industry or government.

3. A transition away from industrial harvest of our remaining old-growth to community-based forestry and selective logging practices, focusing on second growth, forest rehabilitation, and reducing fire risks.

The Old-growth Strategic Review Panel met and reported recommendations to government in spring 2020 that are expected to inform a new approach to old-growth management in BC. Minister Donaldson committed to making the recommendations and report public within the next six months.

Submissions on Forest Stewardship Plans

In November and December 2019, the Committee sent written submissions on Forest Stewardship Plans from Hillcore Lakeside Pacific Forest Products Ltd. (Big Silver, Chehalis, East Harrison, Tretheway and West Harrison landscape units) and Probyn Log Ltd. (Anderson, Big Silver, Chehalis, Chilliwack, Coquihalla, East Harrison, Fraser Valley South, Hatzic, Manning, Silverhope, Spuzzamn, Stave, Trethewaty, West Harrison, Yale landscape units).

While both plans recognized trails with section 57 approval (i.e. the HBC Brigade Trail, Mt. Grainger Trail, Baby Munday, Elk-Thurston, Ford Mountain, Ling Lake, Mt. Cheam, Mt. McGuire, Mt. Rexford, Pierce Lake, Slesse Memorial, Slesse Mountain, Vedder Mountain, Williams Peak, and Williamson Lake), there are many other hiking trails that provide recreation values within the landscape units. Therefore, we sought strategies for these trails which would:
• maintain unique recreational experiences
• minimize damage and impacts on trails
• avoid access roads being built across trails
• prevent motorized use on the trails

The submissions also identified a number of logging roads, which we would like to see maintained in some form (rather than deactivated) to preserve access to prime hiking and climbing areas.In response, the proponents advised that if forest development activities would be proposed in close proximity to the trails identified, the FMCBC would receive a future site-specific Information Sharing Referral to gather additional comments and identify possible management strategies.

South from McGuire ridge to Border Peaiks & Tomyhoi - Jack Bryceland

Viewing south from McGuire Ridge to Border Peaiks & Tomyhoi (Photo credit: Jack Bryceland)

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