Why is Garibaldi Park still closed?

Black Tusk at Garibaldi Provincial Park
The Black Tusk at Garibaldi Provincial Park (photo: Jay MacArthur)

At 1,950 square km, Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of the largest parks close to the lower mainland.  Most of the park is wilderness with no roads, structures or trails.  BC Parks has yet to announce when the park will be opened.

We believe BC Parks is concerned about crowds especially on the Garibaldi Lake trail from Rubble Creek.  There are four other primary access trails: Elfin Lakes, near Squamish; Cheakamus Lake, Singing Pass and Wedgemount Lake trails near Whistler.  By precluding public from accessing Garibaldi Provincial Park, the public is confined to other parks such as Mount Seymour, Cypress and Golden Ears, which serve the same Lower Mainland population.

In the summer on sunny days, the Rubble Creek trail parking lot is almost always full and Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk are popular destinations. With COVID-19, BC Parks may be concerned about physical distancing and safety of their staff.  But the area is very large and we believe groups can easily physically distance themselves. Also, groups don’t all arrive at the same time and the parking lot is not that large.

BC Parks has had at least three months to develop a plan for the summer, but we still haven’t heard what they plan to do.  We do understand that the situation with COVID-19 has been changing, but Dr. Bonnie Henry continues to say that the virus is not easily transmitted outdoors. When we met with BC Parks in early June, they wouldn’t give us much information on why or when.  There is just a closed sign beside these parks to indicate that three of the most popular parks or their trails are closed:

  • Garibaldi Provincial Park
  • Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
  • Stawamus Chief Trail

If you drill down on BC Parks’ website, you will find details such as this:

Updated July 7, 2020 – Due to the COVID-19 response, BC Parks has fully closed this park including all related services and facilities.

  • BC Parks has closed this park; this includes all associated access, e.g. trails, parking lots, beaches, docks and marine buoys.
  • This decision has been made to ensure the continued health and safety of BC Parks visitors, employees, park contractors, volunteers and partners, and to support efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Even if BC Parks is significantly concerned about the Rubble Creek trail, why not open most of Garibaldi Park before they fully develop a plan for Garibaldi Lake?

Other locations don’t have the same overcrowding limitations.  The parking lot size at most locations on the west side of the park limit crowds.

We understand (mostly from rumors) that BC Parks may be implementing a free ticket system sometime this summer to allow a limited number of people to make reservations for day-use and overnight camping in Garibaldi and other over-used parks.

Here are some pros and cons about reservations systems that we have thought about.  We welcome your comments.

Pro   Con

Having a reservation system could improve the feeling of wilderness

A quota or limit has not been publicly discussed

Allows for physical distancing These parks are very large, easy to physically distance in most places
Too many people damage the trails and ecosystem People don’t like being restricted without reasonable justification
No cost to users for this summer Could this be BC Parks’ way to introduce user-pay for day-use again?
A survey done in 2019 showed that many Joffre Lakes trail users think that the trail is overcrowded Limits by their nature, reduce the number of people that can enjoy these special places
Reducing users on popular trails may force people to go to other locations that they have not seen before Other locations cannot handle the increased visitation.  Many trails outside of provincial parks are not maintained and difficult to access without a 4WD.
We are concerned that money collected from future day-use permit schemes will not be given back to BC Parks but stay in general revenue or used to justify further reductions in operational funding for BC Parks
Reservation systems result in additional set-up and administration costs and use limited staff resources to ensure users have reservations.
Will BC Parks allow drop-in users to hike if registered users don’t show up?

 

Other issues

BC Parks have been chronically underfunded

The FMCBC has been lobbying the provincial government to increase funding for BC Parks.  See the blog post about our 2020 submission to the Standing Select Committee of the Legislature.

Comments are welcome below!

 

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