B.C. Parks okays Spearhead huts in Garibaldi Provincial Park

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      B.C. Parks is preparing to solicit proposals that will likely see overnight huts erected in the Spearhead Area of Garibaldi Provincial Park.

      On February 21, B.C. Parks approved a management plan amendment for the increasingly popular area, which includes the Spearhead and Fitzsimmons ranges, southeast of the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.

      According to the plan, any alpine huts will be “modest facilities to support self-sufficient and self-propelled users”. B.C. Parks is likely to look more favourably on proposals involving “lower overnight accommodation fees”.

      “Huts will be located and designed to accommodate winter ski-touring and may require the development of summer hiking trails connecting to the huts,” the plan states.

      The solicitation of hut proposals is designated as a high priority in the plan.

      Another high priority is the development of a new vehicle-accessible trailhead on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek. This will provide summer access to the Singing Pass Trail, replacing the old trailhead, which was blocked by a slope failure.

      B.C. Parks says it will look at establishing a “route from the new trailhead to connect with trails in the park on the Blackcomb side”.

      The plan backs a Whistler Blackcomb proposal to build a trail linking Flute Summit and the Singing Pass Trail. B.C. Parks will also work with Whistler Blackcomb to designate “summer and winter public access rights-of-way through the Controlled Recreation Area” occupied by the ski resort.

      While it confirms support for a loop trail connecting Russet Lake and Adit Lake, the plan rules out a trail from Cheakamus Lake to Singing Pass because this would be “challenging and very costly to develop”.

      B.C. Parks began the management plan amendment process in January 2012, and held open houses on a draft plan in December of that year.

      In May 2012, a group called the Spearhead Huts Committee—whose members represent the Alpine Club of Canada, B.C. Mountaineering Club, Brett Carlson Memorial Foundation, and Kees and Claire Memorial Hut Society—submitted to B.C. Parks a proposal for the construction of three huts along the Spearhead Traverse, a 40-kilometre horseshoe route behind Whistler Blackcomb.

      Many members of the public who provided input during consultations supported B.C. Parks’ proposal to not expand mountain biking in the Spearhead Area.

      “With the planned improvements to hiking trails and the possible addition of backcountry huts, BC Parks anticipates that hiking use in the study area, in particular the Singing Pass, will increase over the coming years. To allow a new activity into the area could result in overcrowding and an overall diminishment of the park visitor experience,” the plan states.

      “Many of the public responded that what they value most about the Spearhead Area of Garibaldi Park is that it is a place where they can readily connect with a sense of wilderness. Allowing mountain biking - an activity that is likely to be associated with high levels of use which would require further trail development - may detract from the wilderness experience which is of value to visitors of Garibaldi Park.”

      According to B.C. Parks, the public expressed a “strong preference” for phasing out heli-skiing in the park. B.C. Parks has committed to making a recommendation on “continuing, adjusting, or eliminating” heli-skiing by 2026.

      The Spearhead Area lies in the territories of the Lil’wat Nation and Squamish Nation. Accordingly, B.C. Parks has committed to working with these First Nations to inform the public about their history, place names, and traditional uses in the area.

      Comments

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      5 Comments

      Lee Lau

      Mar 3, 2014 at 5:05pm

      Stephen - "Many members of the public who provided input during consultations supported B.C. Parks’ proposal to not expand mountain biking in the Spearhead Area."

      The majority SUPPORTED biking in the Spearhead per BC Parks' own survey numbers

      Stephen Hui

      Mar 3, 2014 at 5:15pm

      @Lee Lau:

      The Management Plan Amendment states: "The majority of the public and stakeholder comments on the draft management plan supported BC Parks’ proposal to not allow any expansion of mountain biking in the Spearhead Area."

      Grant Lamont

      Mar 3, 2014 at 5:26pm

      The majority of those who commented supported MTB in the park. This is a travesty and BC Parks should be ashamed of the way they interpreted and delivered this sham. Taking it to the next level.

      Bruno Godin

      Mar 3, 2014 at 6:41pm

      Stephen, that's true, BUT the October 2012 draft of the management plan* states:

      "Approximately 50% of the public who commented through the questionnaire indicated they are supportive of mountain biking in the park. Another 35% were supportive of mountain biking provided there were some conditions placed on how this activity is managed.

      The remaining 15% were not supportive of mountain biking in the park. The primary concerns raised were around the potential for user conflicts, damage to the
      sensitive alpine ecosystems, wildlife conflicts, and the expense of maintaining a multi-use trail system in an alpine area. "

      By my count that's 85% in favour of some form of mountain biking. This raises the question as to whether or not there was a considerable influx of comments in favour of continued restriction of mountain biking after the draft was published.

      BC Parks appears to be parsing words in the final plan and distinguishing between those comments received before the draft (via the questionnaire) and those commenting on the draft. The way the summary is worded it seems they aren't taking into account the survey answers at all.

      Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the public comments were published online so we could check ourselves so maybe an FOI request is in order or at least a question should be posed to BC Parks regarding the discrepancy.

      I don't go to the Spearhead enough to have much of a stake in the management plan but I do make use of many other parks and public lands and I'm always interested in government transparency and whether consultations are undertaken in good faith.

      *http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/garibaldi/garibaldi-p...

      Lee Lau

      Mar 4, 2014 at 9:19am

      Stephen,

      Thanks for confirming you stated verbatim from the BC Parks Management Plan. Any plans on checking whether that statement is true?