Once again, the BC Government and BC Parks has sided with Commercial Interests in a Provincial Park by restricting access to the backcountry and the historic Howe Sound Crest Trail. Although Cypress Provincial Park is considerably south of Garibaldi Provincial Park, we at Garibaldi 2020 feel duty bound to also stand up for non-mechanized backcountry users at Cypress. It seems a pattern has emerged.
In January 2016, Cypress Mountain ski area unilaterally implemented a policy preventing public access between 10 PM and 9 AM to the Backcountry Access Corridor leading to Howe Sound Crest, Black Mountain and Bowen Lookout Trails in Cypress Provincial Park. The BCMC board researched the issue in conjunction with the FMCBC Recreation and Conservation committee. What we found is that there was no public consultation as required and that the policy is in direct conflict with provisions protecting public access in the park master plan.
What follows is the text of a letter sent to Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division on December 7th, 2016 by the BCMC.
[We] represent the British Columbia Mountaineering Club with more than 800 active members. We want to bring to your attention an important access issue in Cypress Provincial Park.
We are writing to ensure you are aware of our club's long standing use of the Howe Sound Crest Trail during winter months for a ski traverse between Cypress Bowl and Lions Bay. The ski tour requires a full day and avalanche risk mitigation. Standard protocol requires an early start in order to complete the trip in daylight and to manage avalanche risk on west-facing slopes which must be descended to Lions Bay late in the day. The earlier the descent occurs on warm sunny days, generally the lower the risk from avalanches.
Simply put, a 9 AM departure from Cypress Bowl puts our parties at risk. Yet, based on a new policy that came into being last winter and being enforced, I am told, by park rangers and commercial ski area staff, that as of last winter persons are not allowed to transit the 300 meter section of the Controlled Recreation Area between Raven Lodge and Yew Lake before 9 AM. The policy is not sanctioned in the Cypress Provincial Park Master Plan of June 1997, which was approved by Mr. Ray Peterson, District Manager, BC Parks and Ecological Reserves Planning Branch for Lower Mainland District.
On page 38 under the heading of Access Strategy, the master plan states the following:
- To provide year-round public access to all parts of the park...
- To designate two public access routes through the Controlled Recreation Area
- To continue to provide adequate and varied vehicular and hiking access for visitors...
- Cooperate with MOTH in providing and maintaining year-round vehicular access to Cypress Bowl and Hollyburn areas
- Finalize backcountry access corridors to Yew Lake/Howe Sound Crest trail, Black Mountain and Hollyburn Mountain during the winter months through the CRA
- Continue to assess and review public access conflicts when they arise and work towards their resolution
Further, we obtained a BC Parks discussion paper regarding parking capacity in Cypress and Mount Seymour Provincial Parks dated August 2014. The issue is not about park safety, i.e. a hiker being squashed by a groomer, but about parking capacity.
On page 4 of the discussion paper, it stated under point #8,
The ski area operators do not wish to restrict backcountry access but to ensure that the CRA is used fairly, and that parking spaces accommodate ski area clients.
Any solution that will eventually be put in place to resolve the parking problem must respect the Access Strategy in the master plan. It seems to us that the ski area operator is using the backcountry access closure as a lever to pry further concessions on parking from it leaseholder, the provincial government. Gamesmanship and horse-trading on an issue of public safety is unacceptable to us. What is needed is open, honest dialogue and recognition of the need for public access through the CRA as authorized in the Park Master Plan.
I am asking on behalf of the B.C. Mountaineering Club that the current backcountry access closure policy be immediately ended. Our club members are intent not put our lives at risk and to continue to use the Howe Sound Crest Trail at our time of choosing as authorized in the Park Master Plan. While we believe the onus is on your office to work towards the resolution of this conflict, we stand ready to work with other affected parties to find a solution.