Guides to Cypress Provincial Park encourage exploration
Good news: calm prevails in Cypress Provincial Park. Given that Cypress is the most heavily visited park in the provincial network, this is a blessing. It wasn’t always so.
The park came into being amid controversy in 1975, after a logging scam denuded much of the upper slopes of Black Mountain and its companion, Mount Strachan. When an expansion was proposed in 1990 for the park’s privately operated snow-sport area—then known as Cypress Bowl Ski Area and more recently rebranded as Cypress Mountain Resort—the Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society grew from the Save Cypress Bowl Committee spearheaded by John Beltz.
“It seems I’ve been involved since forever,” FCPPS president Katharine Steig told the Georgia Straight by phone. “The relationships among stakeholders have changed a lot in the past 20 years. Working together now is so good. Our group never wants to see things return to the way it was before. We’re collectively striving towards a common objective of what’s best for the park.”
One of the most concrete examples of this partnership between the society, the resort, and B.C. Parks—particularly in light of repeated slashes to provincial parks’ operating budgets since the late 1990s—is the publication of two pocket-sized brochures that vastly increase the pleasure of visiting the West Vancouver protected space.
Last year saw the release of “Flowering Plants in Cypress Provincial Park”, a full-colour field guide, augmented this July by a detailed hiking map of the 3,012-hectare park’s southern section. North Vancouver–based cartographic firm Clark Geomatics, whose previous efforts include maps of Garibaldi, Callaghan, Manning, and Skagit provincial parks, prepared this addition.
From now until the snow flies is the best time to trail-test these two guides, especially along the gentle, two-kilometre Yew Lake Trail, a wheelchair-accessible interpretive path that winds through the narrow gap between mounts Black and Strachan, and the more challenging and far lengthier Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT), which links Cypress with Porteau Cove Provincial Park on the shore of Howe Sound.
Among the delights of the Yew Lake route is its old-growth loop through a towering sub-alpine forest. This trail is where the plant identifier comes in handy.
If you thought maps come cheap, think again. FCPPS board member Mike Castle, who oversaw the production, told the Straight that the three partners contributed $5,000 each, plus “a heck of a lot of volunteer time”.
“It took three years’ work, in total, to get all the data together,” he said by phone. “I hiked all the trails to get the GPS coordinates. It kind of felt like terra incognita. The original topographic maps had mistakenly located some of the small creeks where they had been 50 years ago, before they were diverted by logging companies to form small lakes. In the case of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, we only show its southern portion to St. Marks Summit.” Castle said that of the 10,000-print run, 2,000 maps have already been distributed.
For those inclined to get their heart rates up, head along the HSCT from where it branches off beyond the old-growth loop. At every juncture, detailed trail markers helpfully indicate distances. Affixed to one such post is a history of the trail’s redevelopment during the past five years, particularly following the 2010 Winter Olympics, when Cypress hosted the freestyle ski and snowboard events.
Reached by phone, FCPPS’s past president Alex Wallace told the Straight that to compensate for construction of the competition venues on Black Mountain, which obliterated easy access to its summit, Vanoc provided $300,000 for an upgrade of the HSCT, including the new Bowen Island lookout.
“In addition, we also received another $450,000 from the Canadian Trails Federation, a job-stimulus program set up by the federal government,” Wallace said. “People may think that’s a lot, but building a trail from scratch, particularly in places where a slope disappeared in a landslide in 1999, is expensive. We’ve stabilized that section by blasting, put in bridges, laid down boulders, then covered it with two layers of gravel. We get complaints saying the trail looks like a mini logging road, but B.C. Parks doesn’t want to maintain it for a minimum of 20 years.” (To appreciate the difference between the smooth new trail and its roots-and-rocks predecessor, follow the HSCT’s east branch, which links the parking area below Cypress Creek Lodge with Pumphouse Road.)
The rewards for exploring the Yew Lake and Howe Sound Crest trails include magnificent views of the Lions—or the Sisters, as the twin peaks are traditionally called by First Nations peoples—as well as an abiding quiet in the forest with the advent of autumn. Let the calm prevail.
Access: For info on Cypress Provincial Park, see www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/. The Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society is at www.cypresspark.ca/. Free copies of the hiking map are available at Cypress Creek Lodge adjacent to the Yew Lake trailhead. In case of a sudden change in weather conditions, hikers should always prepare for the worst by packing the 10 essentials recommended by North Shore Rescue: www.northshorerescue.com/education/what-to-bring/. Although dogs are permitted strictly on-leash in the park, pets are forbidden on the Yew Lake Trail except in winter months.