Day Pass Passes Up Much-Needed Work on BC’s Busiest Trails
Did you feel the BC Parks Day Pass system was valuable as a pandemic measure in 2020? Many members are concerned about the $800,000 expense since BC Parks already has limited resources. With the Day Pass system implemented in 2020, inexperienced hikers were often displaced off busy trails to other backcountry areas and increasing search and rescue calls. BC Parks also spent three months of staff resources to set up the Day Pass reservation system, install signage, and prepare mapping.
Trail Bids and Work Delayed
Due to BC Parks focusing efforts on the Day Pass system, trail work contractors could not submit bids until late summer or fall, resulting in contractor crews delaying the start of work on the trails until late October or early November.
Two high-traffic trails – the Howe Sound Crest trail and the Black Mountain Plateau trail system – were scheduled to receive further trail enhancements by BC Parks in 2020. In November 2020, bridge and boardwalk materials were delivered to Cypress Provincial Park via helicopter and then manually hauled on-site. The work immediately came to a halt one or two days afterwards when winter appeared. These are ongoing multi-year projects that are yet to be finished.
Although previous trail work has been conducted on the main trail of Mount Seymour Provincial Park, the trail rebuilding project at one of BC’s busiest trails seems to be abandoned. The completed rebuilt 200-metre section of trails at Mt. Seymour is quite visible and consequently tempts hikers along the unfinished route – only to find that the new trail leads into dead-ends in the bush. The main trail at Mount Seymour is one of the most trekked trails in BC – and it’s deteriorating to the point that it’s turned into a creek in sections or bashed into rubble by thousands of hikers. The trail has incrementally worn out over time and is in dire need of restoration; it may inevitably close in the next three or four years since it will become a safety hazard.
Here’s the irony: could some of the $800,000 funds allocated during the pandemic been used to fix up or expand several high-traffic trails or refer people to less-travelled trails in BC’s
Provincial Parks? Some of these abandoned projects have been ongoing or neglected from the 1960’s.
During the pandemic, Lower Mainland hikers are looking to get outdoors, and over-crowding a handful of popular trails showcased on social media. Additionally, with the delay of trail work, capable and enthusiastic trail contractors will eventually avoid North Shore trail projects if they cannot get enough days of work in the summer or to complete work before snowfall; they’ll simply go where work is
scheduled in a logical manner.
Mount Seymour Backcountry Trails
Not surprisingly, Metro Vancouver did not show up to complete work on Dog Mountain at Mt. Seymour Provincial Park in Fall 2020 (year 2 of a 5-year project). Despite installing signage to prepare for trail work and notify recreationists, these trails were too busy and unprotected from large crowds, including hikers with pets.
Alternate places to explore at Mount Seymour
There’s no doubt that hikers need assistance in finding alternate trails. We all know how important it is to get outside and enjoy some fresh air especially during a time of isolation and physical distancing.
Monika Bittel, the Co-Chair of the FMCBC SW BC Recreation and Conservation Committee has some great ideas. She’s proposed that BC Parks review its older hiking trails at Mount Seymour that are seldom used in summer, even though they still are displayed in old trail guidebooks.
In fact, just a short distance to the east and west of Mt. Seymour’s Main trails, there are historic trails that can be restored to increase capacity at the park and move traffic levels off deteriorating trails so that work can be completed or to disperse traffic throughout the park. This Perimeter trail (pictured below) is recommended by Monika to be explored and reworked. You can access this Perimeter trail from side trails at several points, including from the ski area, and many of the bridges in the area, which are still in great shape.
You can reach quiet, spectacular viewpoints at Depencier Bluffs within this destination, and head along several trail loops or to other backcountry destinations from this key access trail. However, if you travel over Percy Creek, you’ll notice that the ‘temporary’ 2×4 bridge has collapsed and needs to be replaced. The expansion of these trail networks could help get more
recreationists out on the trails.
The same over-grown, yet hidden, trail exists to the west of Mt. Seymour’s Main trails, where very few people trek to Hidden Lake and out to Third Lake off this trail. This old hiking trail is useable in summertime and offers great snowshoeing in winter at about 1100-metres in elevation gain. Some of this trail is located as part of the Lower Seymour Conservation Area, but BC Parks has a co-management agreement with Metro Vancouver. Expanding this trail network is a worthwhile and eminently do-able project, but we are not sure why this hasn’t been pondered previously (thanks for the ideas, Monika!).
To start off, BC Parks needs to update its outdated Mount Seymour Provincial Park Master Plan, so others can access augmented information on ski area boundaries, ski community recreation areas, and even the Provincial Park’s boundaries to help develop a feasible plan. Thankfully, Dawn Smith (BC Parks Planning Section Head) is finally updating the plan after a couple decades.