Draft plan for Golden Ears Provincial Park proposes huts and loop hiking trail
B.C. Parks is proposing a new management plan for Golden Ears Provincial Park, which could lead to better access in the winter for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
The draft plan, released earlier this month for public review, entertains the possibility of developing year-round yurts, huts, or cabins in the park. It also recommends that B.C. Parks work with the private operator of the park’s facilities to improve wintertime access.
“Winter recreationalists have expressed concerns with gate closures and limited access to the park in the winter months, particularly after snowfall when the park gate is often closed,” the draft plan states.
The new planning document would replace the park’s current management plan, which was created in 1963 and updated in 1976. B.C. Parks plans to hold open houses about the draft plan on January 29, 2013, at UBC Robson Square (Room C-225) in Vancouver, and on January 31, 2013, at the Maple Ridge Public Library (Fraser Room). Both events are scheduled to take place between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Named after the twin peaks of Mount Blanshard, Golden Ears Park is located 50 kilometres east of Vancouver, partly in Maple Ridge. The Class A park was established in 1967, when it was carved out of Garibaldi Provincial Park, and covers 62,539 hectares. With an average of 615,000 visitors a year, it’s B.C.’s fourth most visited provincial park. Golden Ears lies in the traditional territories of the Katzie First Nation, Kwantlen First Nation, Matsqui First Nation, Tsawwassen First Nation, Sto:lo Nation, In-SHUCK-ch Nation, Sts’Ailes First Nation, and the St’at’imc/Lillooet Tribal Council.
According to the draft plan, people use the park for hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating. The park’s Alouette Lake campground is the largest of its kind in the province. Golden Ears protects a variety of species at risk, including the red-listed painted turtle and Pacific water shrew, and the blue-listed grizzly bear, coastal tailed frog, and snow bramble.
B.C. Parks’ draft plan puts forward a number of strategies to deal with the issue of recreational facilities “no longer meeting demand”. Several of these proposals affect hikers.
One of the plan’s objectives is to expand trail networks to include loops and viewpoints. To this end, the document proposes the building of a trail and a footbridge across Gold Creek to link the East Canyon Trail with Alder Flats and the Golden Ears Trail. The East Canyon Trail itself would get a destination viewpoint, with the remainder of the trail being designated as a route to Hector Ferguson Lake. Meanwhile, the popular Lower Falls Trail would receive upgrades to improve footing and drainage.
Other proposals include developing a day use area and backcountry campsites on the east side of Alouette Lake, with marine and hike-in access. The draft plan also calls for B.C. Parks to “work with Katzie First Nation and the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest to develop a hiking trail to Raven Creek marine campsite on Pitt Lake”. For safety reasons, the plan recommends the maintenance of the small shelter on Panorama Ridge, along the Golden Ears Trail, for emergencies.
In order to mitigate the environmental impacts of backcountry usage, the draft plan supports the relocation of the campsites at Alder Flats out of Gold Creek’s riparian area, as well as the provision of food caches, pit toilets, fire pits, and tent pads at all backcountry campsites. Lake Beautiful on Alouette Mountain would remain closed to backcountry camping. B.C. Parks also wants to “solicit the help of volunteer groups to assist in monitoring and maintaining backcountry facilities”.
Regarding the potential introduction of yurts, huts, or cabins, the draft plan calls for B.C. Parks to “consider proposals for the development of basic year-round accommodation” in Golden Ears’ intensive recreation zone. That’s the heavily used frontcountry area around the Golden Ears Parkway and the southern shores of Alouette Lake.
“Golden Ears Park is a place where park visitors can experience wilderness, ecosystems are preserved, and important ecosystem values such as species-at-risk are understood and protected,” reads the draft plan’s vision statement. “Here, park visitors can develop a better appreciation of nature through a well-maintained network of trails that provides a range of park visitors with opportunities to enjoy the park’s natural surroundings. Park visitors can also enjoy recreating in a lakeside setting while having a minimal impact on ecosystems and archaeological values.”
In addition to attending the open houses, the public can submit feedback on the draft plan via snail mail, email, fax, and an online comment form. The deadline for input is February 15, 2013. B.C. Parks expects to finalize the management plan in April 2013.
Golden Ears is part of a complex of protected areas that includes Garibaldi Provincial Park and Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. B.C. Parks is accepting public feedback on a draft management plan amendment for Garibaldi Park until January 10, 2013. Established in the 1990s, Pinecone Burke still lacks a management plan to guide the park’s direction.