The SWBC Recreation and Conservation Committee, FMCBC clubs and members have worked on a range of issues since our spring Cloudburst update. The following highlights some advocacy projects from the past several months:
- Advocating for more operational funding for BC Parks and RSTBC
In June, the FMCBC made submissions to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for more funding in the 2023 budget for both BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC). Similar to other recreation organizations, including the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC and Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Club, we advocated for an increase in the operational budgets for BC Parks and RSTBC to allow them to expand public recreation opportunities (i.e., trails, dasy-use sites and backcountry campsites), maintain long-neglected backcountry recreation facilities and trails and support volunteer groups that develop and maintain recreation trails and sites. We also advocated for funding to allow RSTBC to maintain primary service roads to access trailheads, recreation sites and provincial parks. RSTBC’s lack of funds to maintain access roads means that we will continue to lose access to popular recreations sites and trails and see overcrowding and overuse of the remaining accessible sites and trails.
The Select Standing Committee issued their 2023 Budget Consultation Report in August. The Committee acknowledged that while the use of BC’s parks has increased significantly, the budget for parks and recreation has not kept pace, leaving many parks and trails underfunded and understaffed. The Select Standing Committee recommended the following in support of parks and recreation:
- Continue to invest in BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC to address gaps in maintenance and staff, including dedicated funding to community-based organizations for trail maintenance and development.
- Build the capacity of volunteers by establishing discretionary funding to ensure that BC’s volunteer trail and park maintenance groups have the resources they need to continue to improve the accessibility of outdoor recreation.
We will see if the next provincial budget provides better support for RSTBC and BC Parks.
- Submissions on commercial tenures that will impact public recreation interests
- She Shreds Mountain Adventures Inc. – Lands File No 2411829: She Shreds applied for a commercial snowmobile tenure in the Pemberton Ice Cap and Hurley areas, including Face, Lone Goat, and Hope Creek Forest Service Road to provide primarily women-focused day and multi-day snowmobile clinics, courses and guided tours. Since the proposed tenure areas already have commercial snowmobile tenures, we did not oppose the application. Rather, we took the opportunity to highlight how the proponent could educate clients about recreation zoning, provincial parks that limit or exclude motorized activities and wildlife closures. With the rapidly increasing number of all types of winter backcountry users, mountain safety and compliance with zoning is crucial to minimize conflicts among user groups. While electric snowmobiles may reduce the impacts of carbon emissions, other impacts will persist. This includes risks associated with high-speed snowmobiles, hardened snowmobile tracks and the practice of high-marking, the ability for snowmobiles to quickly track up an entire area and differences in managing avalanche risks. To increase our mutual enjoyment of shared backcountry areas, the FMCBC believes the development and promotion of best practices among user groups would help reduce conflicts; for example, best practices for motorized and non-motorized users sharing an access road, minimum spacing between snowmobiles and non-motorized users, maximum travel speed for snowmobiles operating within proximity of non-motorized users, and best practices in managing avalanche risks in shared use areas.
- Forest Stewardship Plans – Chilliwack Natural Forest District: Together with the Trails Committee and input from clubs in the Fraser Valley and Chilliwack area, the FMCBC commented on two Forest Stewardship Plans: NFP Timber Solutions Ltd. (Ainslie and Coquihalla Forest Development Units ) and Ts’elxwéyeqw Forestry Limited Partnership (Forest Development Units within the Chilliwack, Fraser Valley South, Silverhope, Harrison – East and Yale Landscape Units). The FMCBC’s submissions identified many trails important to our clubs and the general public, including Baby Munday, Gloria-Elk-Thurston, Mount McGuire, Pierce Lake, Sleese Memorial, Mount Rexford, Vedder Mountain, Mt Mercer, Lucky Four Mine, Williams Peak and Williamson Lake. The FMCBC made specific recommendations with respect to several trails and outlined more general strategies to protect recreation trails and resources:
- preserve the unique recreational experience of hiking through forested and subalpine settings by maintaining a 50m buffer of forest on both sides of the trail;
- minimize damage and impacts on these recreation trails and resources from primary forest activities;
- avoid building access roads over established recreation trails, where possible; and,
- prevent motorized use of established non-motorized recreation trails.
In response to our submissions, the proponent advised that should forestry operations be proposed in close proximity to the trails where established objectives do not exist, the Plan Holders would communicate with our organization for input where warranted.
- Bridal Falls Gondola (aka Cascade Skyline Gondola) – Crown Land File No 2412430: The proponent is seeking a tenure to construct a multi-passenger gondola, which will take passengers from its base near the Bridal Falls Golf Course lands, near Chilliwack, to the Summit Station near Mt Archibald. There will be a variety of facilities at the Base, Mid and Summit Stations. A summit area trail network will be designed to link up with other existing trails in the area, including the Fraser Valley Regional District Elk Mountain and Mt Thurston Trail Network. Based on our review of the project documents, comments and responses from the proponent’s representative, and feedback from members and member clubs, in particular the Chilliwack Outdoor Club and Chilliwack Park Society, the FMCBC believes the proposed gondola project is an overall positive development because it will improve access and expand non-motorized, self-propelled backcountry recreation opportunities in southwestern BC. The FMCBC’s overall positive assessment is contingent on public access for non-mechanized activities being preserved and enhanced, as outlined in the applicant’s project documents. For more information about the Bridal Falls Gondola project and our comments to Lands Branch, please see our blog posted September 19, 2022 about the Bridal Falls Gondola project.
- BC Parks Survey on Day-Use Pass Program – 2022
From mid-August to October 31, 2022, BC Parks conducted a survey about their Day-Use Pass Program in 2022. In 2022, the program was limited to selected trails and parking lots in Garibaldi, Joffre and Golden Ears provincial parks. While the increase in the recreational use of parks is positive, BC Parks maintains the “unprecedented increase in visitors” risks negatively impacting ecological integrity and Indigenous people’s way of life in protected areas and overwhelming park services and infrastructure, which can lead to crowded parks, a less enjoyable visitor experience and impacts on natural and cultural features and fragile ecosystems.
In their recent blog (https://engage.gov.bc.ca/bcparksblog/2022/08/11/the-evolution-of-bc-parks-day-use-pass-program/) about the evolution of BC Parks Day-Use Pass Program, many long-standing issues (for example, trail braiding and vegetation trampling and safety concerns caused when people park along highways where demand exceeds the limited parking available) are attributed to excessive crowding, while ignoring the fact that for more than 25 years, there has been little trail and infrastructure maintenance and very limited expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities in provincial parks, particular those that are in close proximity to the ever-growing population centers in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley. To complicate matters further, with washouts, loss of bridges and infrastructure on popular forest service or resource roads used to access trails, routes and backcountry recreation areas outside of parks (i.e., Ashlu, Downtown and Elaho), the public relies more and more on the parks, trails and recreation sites that remain accessible. To resolve the overcrowding and over-use of our parks and accessible wilderness areas, government must focus greater effort, planning and resources to develop new recreation opportunities (i.e., trails, day-use picnic areas, parking and backcountry campsites) and enhance existing opportunities inside and outside parks. Restricting access to parks, without reciprocal expansion of opportunities elsewhere, simply means overcrowding and over-use of unmanaged wilderness areas, provincial parks without or dated management plans (i.e., Callaghan, Pinecone Burke and Mt Seymour), or regional and municipal parks. For more information about the survey and FMCBC’s concerns about the Day-Use Pass Program, please see our blog posted on September 22, 2022 about BC Parks survey on the Day-Use Pass Program.