Think you’ve seen every colour of green imaginable? Think again. The verdant hues on display in Golden Ears Provincial Park challenge the most panoptic palettes.
Hurry out to Maple Ridge while the spring spectacle lasts—specifically, along the twin trails that follow Gold Creek’s course. Take your time. Though still soggy in places, the hour-long stroll along Lower Falls Trail or its companion, East Canyon Trail, is a marvel and suited to all ability levels, ideal for celebrating B.C. Parks’ 100th anniversary.
That’s where the Georgia Straight recently met Eiichiro and Katsuko Ochiai. Since returning to Vancouver after 25 years in Pennsylvania, the retired chemistry professor and his wife have journeyed to the park time and again. “We had to come back to Vancouver, no question,” they said. “This is our fifth visit to Golden Ears and the first time we’ve been here in spring. The greens are really marvelous. We don’t travel as much as we once did, when we took our kids to Banff each year,” said the hot spring–loving duo. “Now we prefer to go on day trips.”
Golden Ears was created with both day-trippers and campers in mind. Logged and flooded in the 1920s, devastated by a fire in the 1930s, levelled by a typhoon in the 1960s, and on life support since B.C. Parks’ budget was gutted in the 2000s, the park continues to put up a brave face, a tribute to its incomparable wilderness attributes. Jade-hued liverworts and mosses cloak massive cedar stumps and carpet a forest floor jackstrawed with blowdowns. Grassy witch’s-hair lichens drape the boughs and trunks of evergreens like fishnets. Most striking of all is the creek’s deep-emerald tint, a reminder of what makes both gems and wild spaces precious.
Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray served as the B.C. minister in charge of provincial parks between 2001 and 2004. Her tenure was identified with the redrawing of the boundaries of the Spruce Lake Provincial Park, renamed South Chilcotin Mountains Park, the creation of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve as part of a provincial-federal initiative, and as a partner with Metro Vancouver to preserve Burns Bog in Delta. In a phone call with the Georgia Straight, Murray said her favourite provincial park remains Strathcona on Vancouver Island. “It was the original and is still a great example. I love the idea that a hundred years ago a group trekked through the wilderness to make a case for its preservation.” She recalled acting while minister to reject a mining company’s plan to withdraw water from a lake in Strathcona to power its operations near Campbell River.
Murray expressed the hope that in future, B.C. Parks will continue to foster strong partnerships with local groups. She also advocated increased stewardship for endangered species and wilderness places where people can refresh their spirits. “We need to accelerate protection of marine spaces from the current level of one percent to 10. B.C. Parks has a role to play in that. Under the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada is committed to preserving 10 percent by 2012. Obviously, that’s not going to happen, because over the past five years things have really bogged down. These initiatives take leadership from the top.”
Former Environment, Lands, and Parks minister John Cashore called the Straight from his home on Cortes Island to offer his thoughts on B.C. Parks’ centennial based on his term in the 1990s as well as to look into the crystal ball for its future. “We’re one of the last jurisdictions with a chance to get things right,” he said. “Even though people may not be able to access it, protecting habitat is valuable purely to keep wildlife corridors intact. Like the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park that we created on the northwestern B.C.–Alaska border, it’s important just because it’s there.”
Cashore expressed the wish that a vocal and vibrant public will continue to hold governments to account. “Land-use planning has to happen in a healthy way. With all the pressure to increase development, people of this province have the right to public hearings over closed doors.”
Locally, groups such as West Vancouver’s Friends of Cypress Provincial Park have attempted to counter the double whammy of increased public-land responsibilities—B.C. Parks currently has an inventory of almost 1,000 parks, protected areas, ecological reserves and conservancies, from one hectare to almost one million hectares in size—coupled with decreased government spending.
In its spring 2011 newsletter, the FCPP estimates the system is currently running on 25 percent less funding and 30 percent less staff with 35 percent more parks and protected areas to administer than a decade ago. Insufficient funds to maintain trails in Golden Ears is a case in point. A notice posted at B.C. Parks’ website states that there is currently no time frame to replace a bridge on the Golden Ears Trail and that hikers should be prepared to wade in order to reach the twin peaks. Given the current depth of the alpine snow pack, that’s a chilling summer prospect, indeed. Better to put such thoughts aside and visit the park’s Lower and Upper Falls while the spring freshet is in full force. Pack some cake and come celebrate.
ACCESS: Golden Ears Park lies 11 kilometres north of Highway 7 in Maple Ridge, about 50 kilometres east of Vancouver. For directions and details, visit the Golden Ears Provincial Park website, the Convention on Biological Diversity website, and the Friends of Cypress Provincial Park’s newsletter.