The SWBC Recreation and Conservation Committee, FMCBC clubs and members have worked on a range of issues over the past six months. The following highlights some of the advocacy work in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Sea to Sky Land Resource Management Plan – Non-Commercial Winter Recreation Zones
Almost 13 years ago the Non-Commercial Winter Recreation Zones under the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) came into effect. During that time, it has become evident that both the non-motorized and the motorized users could benefit from some changes to the Winter Recreation Zones. Based on the potential for mutually beneficial changes to the LRMP zones, Committee members have had several discussions with representatives from various snowmobile clubs and provincial government staff about where amendments could be made to benefit both user groups. The underlying premise is that neither user group would benefit more than the other from the collective changes. Specific areas currently being considered are the Miller Ridge area, also known as the “Pemberton Ski Hill”, near Pemberton, BC; and, Mount Brew and surrounding terrain near Whistler, BC.
• Miller Ridge, also known as the “Pemberton Ski Hill”: The snowmobilers have proposed changing the zoning from non-motorized to motorized as the area was historically used by snowmobilers and continues to be heavily used by them, despite its current non-motorized designation. After reviewing the proposal in detail, in January 2022, the FMCBC submitted a letter of support to change the non-motorized zoning to motorized for the winter season from November 1st to March 31st for a trial period of one year. After March 31st, Miller Ridge would revert back to non-motorized use to accommodate self-propelled users (ski tourers, snowshoers and hikers) embarking on spring trips.
• Mt Brew and surrounding terrain: In February 2022, the FMCBC proposed that Mt Brew and surrounding terrain be designated for non-motorized use. The Mt Brew area has been a backcountry skiing destination since the 1970s and remains a popular with beginners to advanced ski tourers for day and multi-day trips. Its popularity is due to its accessibility and the variety of terrain accessible from the VOC hut. The presence of the VOC hut (first hut built in 1982; current hut built in 2005) demonstrates the long-term connection the non-motorized community has had with the area. The Mt Brew area is also an important start or end point for people doing the Squamish-Cheakamus Divide Traverse, which connects the Mt Brew area with the upper Callaghan valley via the west side of Mt. Fee and the Solitude Glacier. The proposed non-motorized area would extend uphill/east of the Roe Creek mainline, including Branch 200, and cover the terrain accessible from the VOC hut, such as Keg Peak.
First Nations will be provided the opportunity to comment on the proposals. If approved, we are hopeful a decision on the proposals will be made in time for the designations to be implemented for the 2022/2023 winter season.
Improving Winter Public Access to Provincial Parks in the Sea to Sky Corridor
Over the past several years, the Committee has been working to improve winter access to popular non-motorized destinations in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Two current projects include the Callaghan Valley and Brandywine Falls Provincial Park.
Callaghan Lake Provincial Park
Winter access to Callaghan Lake Provincial Park has been a challenge in part because of limited parking outside the gates of both Callaghan Country and the Whistler Olympic Park. While there is parking during operating hours of both facilities, there is no overnight parking permitted and vehicles left after the operations close result in an “overdue” report to the RCMP, which may trigger a search. The only parking for overnight or extended day trips is at the Alexander Falls Recreation Site. Unfortunately, winter parking is limited to 4-5 cars because parking is confined to the entrance of the road leading to the Alexander Falls summer parking lot – the road being too steep to navigate safely in winter. The east side of the Callaghan Valley road would provide more parking for winter recreation users wishing to access Callaghan Lake and the upper Callaghan Valley.
Two recent developments may improve winter access to Callaghan Lake and upper Callaghan Valley. First, BC Parks anticipates initiating the long-awaited park management planning process for Callaghan Lake Provincial Park (established in 1997) and the Conservancies (created in 2009). Improving public access to Callaghan Lake Provincial Park in winter and summer will be raised as an issue for resolution during the planning process. Second, there is a new owner and management team at Callaghan Country. In October 2021, outdoor retailer, evo, acquired Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures. While there were no changes this winter season, the evo management team appears willing to discuss public parking and access options. We are optimistic that hese two developments may result in improved public winter access to Callaghan Lake Provincial Park and the upper Callaghan Valley in the upcoming winter seasons. Improved access will help relieve capacity pressures at other popular non-motorized recreation destinations in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park
In December 2021, the Committee learnt of winter access issues at Brandywine Provincial Park, which is located 47 km north of Squamish, BC, off Highway 99. Recently installed no-parking signs along the highway were being enforced with illegally parked cars towed at owners’ expense. Stranded visitors had to walk or hitch-hike back to Function Junction near Whistler, BC.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is a popular summer destination, with easy terrain and trails. These same features make the park particularly suitable for winter recreation for families, winter walking and beginner snowshoeing . Although the current park management plan identifies the park as appropriate for beginner snowshoeing, the access road is gated in winter and there is no plowed parking outside the gate. With the park located just off Highway 99, it would be relatively easy to plow the access road and parking lot to accommodate 30-40 vehicles.
In January 2022, the Committee wrote to Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Office Service Division, requesting the access road and parking lot at Bandywine Falls Provincial Park be plowed. Opening the park for winter recreation would expand winter recreation opportunities in the South Coast / Sea to Sky Corridor, help relieve pressure on Cypress Provincial Park, Mount Seymour Provincial Park and Diamond Head, all of which have winter parking capacity issues. Providing winter access to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park would go some way towards BC Parks meeting its mandate to provide accessible outdoor recreation opportunities to British Columbians in the South Coast region.
BC Parks – revamping website and seeking public input
BC parks is revamping their website (https://beta.bcparks.ca/) and is seeking feedback. The beta website is currently limited to the following 6 provincial parks: Alice Lake Park, Birkenhead Lake Park, E.C. Manning Park, Garibaldi Park, Golden Ears Park and Rathtrevor Beach Park. BC Parks is interested in receiving stakeholder feedback, particularly from groups with volunteer agreements with BC Parks. A preliminary review of the new website shows that the text on the new site is literally the same as on the old site, with no substantive changes to the information available about the parks, their facilities, trails, etc.
Members are strongly encouraged to visit the beta site and submit feedback to BC Parks about the kind of information and features you would like to see on the site more user friendly and to make trip planning easier and more efficient. Members are also encouraged to share their feedback with Monika Bittel via email (email@example.com), as the Committee intends to make submissions to BC Parks on how to improve the website.