The SWBC Recreation and Conservation Committee, FMCBC clubs and members have worked on a range of issues over the past year. The following highlights two advocacy projects.
Submissions to the Select Standing Committee on Finance – 2022 Budget
Since 2018, the FMCBC has made submissions to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to increase funding for Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC), which manages public recreation opportunities on Crown land outside provincial parks. Along with the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, Caledonia Ramblers (Dave King) and other organizations, the FMCBC made submissions to the Select Standing Committee to fund trails and RSTBC, which relies heavily on partnership agreements to undertake essential maintenance and development of recreation sites and trails.
Without adequate operational funding, RSTBC staff are overwhelmed and do not have the capacity to
• process the paperwork to authorize or legally designate trails or work on them
• plan proactively to safeguard wildlife and environmental, cultural and recreational values
• support volunteers, recreation groups and non-profit organizations keep up with the influx of outdoor recreation enthusiasts and deteriorating infrastructure, and
• maintain primary access roads to popular recreation sites and trailheads, including critical access roads to provincial parks.
With respect to the latter, RSTBC’s inability to address road maintenance means loss of access to popular recreation sites and trails, access restricted to those with high clearance or 4×4 vehicles, and overcrowding of trails that remain accessible – both outside and within parks.
In the 2022 Budget submissions, the FMCBC recommended an increase in RSTBC’s annual operational budget to $20M from their current $8M, and the creation of a ministerial position similar to that of the Parliamentary Secretary for BC Parks to co-ordinate and implement an outdoor recreation strategy. Despite the importance of outdoor recreation to BC’s economy and lifestyle, outdoor recreation in BC’s forests, wildlands and parks is managed or impacted by decisions, policies and programs in several ministries, i.e., Environment and Climate Change, FLRNROD, and Tourism, Arts and Culture. A ministerial position for outdoor recreation would help co-ordinate and develop strategies, policies and programs within the various ministries, agencies and levels of government to support and fund a strong and sustainable outdoor recreation sector.
In mid-November, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released their report on the Budget 2022 consultations. On p. 40 of the report, the Committee noted that Recreation Sites and Trails BC manages over 2,500 sites or established trails and over 900 unestablished trails across BC with only around 50 permanent staff. Further, the Committee highlighted
… how recreation trails help generate awareness for the environment and climate change, build relationships with First Nations communities, boost tourism, and improve health and wellbeing…
Other organizations similarly stressed that many trails are in a state of disrepair due to a lack of funding for maintenance. The Shuswap Trail Alliance and Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Club Trail described how maintenance is an ongoing effort that is largely subsidized by volunteers who fundraise and provide their labour and resources. Some organizations, such as the BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association, the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia, and the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia, suggested that a parliamentary secretary for outdoor recreation be created to manage BC’s outdoor recreation strategy.
The Committee acknowledged “the significant uptick in the use of parks and trails during the pandemic as British Columbians strive to be outside, and how this increased use has resulted in undermaintained trails being further eroded due to staffing shortages and an operational reliance on volunteers.” The Select Standing Committee recommended “increased funding for parks, recreation and trails to address gaps in maintenance and staff, including dedicated funding to community-based organizations for trail maintenance and development.”
With the significant damage caused by the multiple severe weather events over the past year, the provincial government’s efforts and funding will focus on restoration of highways and community infrastructure. Given the reports of significant damage to trails, campsites and other recreation infrastructure, we remain hopeful that additional funding will be provided to RSTBC and BC Parks to rebuild and restore the outdoor recreation amenities, which are increasingly relied upon by the tourism sector and by regional and local communities to diversify their economies.
Cathedral Park Management Plan Submissions
In August, BC Parks’ Okanagan Planning Section initiated the management planning process for Cathedral Provincial Park. Although the last management plan was produced in 1989, many of the key issues remain relevant today even though strategies were implemented to address these issues. The deadline for initial feedback was November 15, 2021.
Cathedral Provincial Park is a popular destination for many members for climbing, extended back-packing trips and base camp-style trips in the core area of the park. Given the importance of the park, the SWBC Recreation & Conservation Committee reached out to member clubs in the Interior and southwest BC and received valuable constructive feedback, which we incorporated into the FMCBC’s submissions.
Although issues identified by BC Parks were addressed, the submissions focused in particular on the recreational activities within the park, the need for extensive repairs to and maintenance of the trails and infrastructure and on the development and expansion of the current trail system. The following are highlights of the input received from members:
• Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing should be added as recognized recreational activities in the park.
• The lodge and cabins could be made available to expand winter recreation opportunities.
• New climbing routes should be allowed in accordance with the new routing guidelines adopted by BC Parks in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
• The water quality of Quinescoe Lake has deteriorated over the years. Several factors may be contributing to the deterioration (i.e., erosion and contaminants from the Lodge and campground) and requires further study.
• Re-opening of Pyramid campsite by removing the blowdown and thereby increasing camping opportunities in the park.
• Inadequate food caches.
• Many visitors arrive with too much “stuff”, including huge coolers, which often results in food left behind in fire pits. At Lake O’Hara, which relies on vehicle transport to the campsite, there are limits on what can be brought into the park. This appears to be helping the situation.
Expansion of the current trail system
• Re-establish Cathedral Forks trail to provide hiking access to The Deacon and Orthodox Mountain.
• The Centennial Trail should be upgraded and maintained as it connects to Manning Park and Snowy Protected Area.
• A management plan for the Snowy Protected Area, adjacent to Cathedral, is needed to expand the hiking and backpacking opportunities and to help disperse visitors.
• The bridge across Ewart Creek needs replacing and a new footbridge is required across Juniper Creek where it enters Ewart Creek to restore access to the Snowy Protected Area.
• Improve access to the Ewart Creek trailhead, as the current access road is extremely narrow for long distances.
We appreciate the efforts by club representatives to encourage members to forward their feedback to the Committee. The constructive feedback received strengthened the final submissions to BC Parks. There will be a further opportunity to provide feedback when BC Parks circulates the draft management plan for public comment. BC Parks anticipates finalizing the management plan in 2022/23.
Outreach to facilitate constructive member feedback
The success of the outreach to member clubs through their respective representatives has encouraged us to find ways to facilitate member feedback on other advocacy issues. The constructive feedback received on the Cathedral Provincial Park submission demonstrates the wealth and depth of knowledge, expertise and experience of our members. Our ability to effectively build on this knowledge and expertise will be key to the success of the Federation’s advocacy efforts.