Tribute to Jay MacArthur, 1957 – 2022
On October 12, 2022, we lost long-standing FMCBC member, Jay MacArthur, to cancer. Almost one year earlier, Jay was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and given a few short weeks to live. Amazingly, after some treatment and interventions, Jay improved and in typical Jay-fashion, managed to pack an impressive amount of living into his last 10 months. Jay enjoyed time with family and friends, met his new grandson and spent time outdoors whenever he could. When his health kept him in doors, Jay pursued trail projects, developed the BC Trail Tracker and continued to advocate for non-motorized recreation (i.e., Chilliwack Forest Stewardship Plans, BC Parks Day-Use Program and Bridal Falls Gondola).
Jay has been an integral member of the Federation’s Recreation and Conservation Committee for over 40 years, attending his first meeting in 1979. Jay chaired or co-chaired the Committee with Roger Freeman from about the mid 1980s to the mid 2000s. I first met Jay at one of these monthly Committee meetings. Being relatively new to backcountry recreation, I was initially overwhelmed by the diverse issues and the extensive knowledge that Jay and other Committee members had about BC’s mountains, access roads, trails and routes. I remained involved with the Committee because of the respectful nature of the meetings, the collegiality of the group and the dedication and commitment of Jay and several others to the preservation of BC’s wilderness and securing public access to it for non-motorized recreation. Several decades later, I chair the Committee and have collaborated with Jay on many, many access and trail projects.
Jay worked relentlessly on access and conservation issues for over 40 years. His long history of volunteer engagement demonstrates that it often takes vision and persistent effort to protect our wilderness and public access to it. Highlights from Jay’s decades of volunteerism include:
- Advocacy work, leading to the creation of several provincial parks: Ts’ilʔos Provincial Park, Big Creek Provincial Park and South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park. Each park preserves unique ecosystems, consisting of intact watersheds or significant portions thereof, alpine meadows, lakes, mountain terrain, glaciers and wildlife. These parks provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, fishing and ski touring.
- Advocating for much needed resources (funding and staff) for BC Parks to expand recreation opportunities (campsites, trails and day-use sites) to meet the needs of British Columbians and to repair long-neglected trails and park infrastructure.
- Improving access to backcountry recreation opportunities, particularly in heavily populated southwestern BC:
- Obtaining federal funding to construct the Howe Sound Crest Trail in Cypress Provincial Park. With multiple access points, this 29km trail remains popular with hikers and trail runners and provides opportunities for 2-3 day wilderness treks.
- Efforts to restore summer access to Singing Pass in Garibaldi Provincial Park via a new summer hiking trail that will take park visitors from Whistler/Blackcomb’s Lot 8 to a new footbridge across Fitzsimmons Creek, after which the new trail will rejoin the old Singing Pass trail.
This past June, on one of Jay’s good days, Peter Taylor, Bryce Leigh and I accompanied Jay to Fitzsimmons Creek, where we surveyed the crossing and marked the footings. On our return to the village, we followed Jay and flagged and measured a proposed route through the forest.
With the province close to finalizing documentation with Whistler/Blackcomb, the FMCBC hopes to be able to start trail and bridge construction in August 2023.
- Restoring long-neglected trail in BC Parks: About two years ago, Jay began auditing popular provincial park trails to identify hazards, failing bridges, clogged water bars, missing or misleading signage, and detailed the nature and extent of repairs required. These audit reports have helped highlight the extensive repairs needed to restore provincial park trails and prioritize maintenance work.
[M Bittel photo: Jay auditing the Mt Seymour Main Trail on August 13, 2020]
As recently as September 8, Jay recruited Alex Wallace to hike the Black Mountain Plateau trail to scope out the condition of the trail. Carrying Jay’s folding chair, Alex accompanied Jay on a slow and leisurely hike along the trail, with Jay measuring the trail and making notes from his chair. When a passing hiker asked Jay if he was one of those trail angels, Jay just beamed. Jay rode the Coaster down, complaining it was a slow ride because he got stuck behind a slowpoke.
[A Wallace photo: Jay auditing the Black Mountain Trail on September 8, 2022]
- Creating BC Trail Tracker, a trail database that serves as an inventory of public trails, a register of volunteers associated with each trail and a register of trails that still need volunteers. Trail users can submit reports on the condition of trails and access. The BC Trail Tracker (https://mountainclubs.org/resources/bc-trail-tracker/) helps volunteers prioritize trail work and informs trail management agencies about safety and access issues. The goal is to provide safe and accessible trails for public use.
Jay’s volunteerism is legendary. He has left some pretty big shoes to fill within the Federation. Jay’s efforts to restore access to Singing Pass, protect the Chilcotin wilderness and improve trails within BC Parks reflect his love for the outdoors, his energy, integrity, optimism, belief in people and focus on constructive problem-solving. Jay is a great example of how to nurture new generations of explorers, leaders and volunteers. Jay will be greatly missed.