October 6, 2017
These are talking points that can be used when addressing concerns to elected officials.
Parking and access to recreation opportunities is a huge issue in the Sea to Sky corridor.
The road slump on the Whistler side along the park access right-of-way is in a geologically unstable area. The right-of-way was "repaired" at a cost of $50,000 in the summer of 2016. The repaired area washed out a month later in October rains. Land surveys show the slump continues to move downhill and the instability extends far above the road. It is economically infeasible to repair the slump. As the slump is further repaired the slope above becomes more undercut leading to further instability.
The road slump cross a slope on a steep angle. Not only can vehicles not pass but it is also dangerous on foot because the footbed has disappeared. There is a steep drop off and it's a long way down to the creek. A slip could cause a fall and grievous bodily injury. Not everyone using the trail is a mountaineer with proper footwear. Expect people in running shoes, families with children, seniors and the less experienced. The slope could be frozen or icy. There is no way around it.
The cost of a road bridge or footbridge across Fitzsimmons Creek to bypass the slump on the Whistler side would be cheaper in the long run than attempting to repair the slump every year.
An advantage of a road bridge over a footbridge would be to allow for more parking on the south side of the creek and it supports Innergex operational requirements. From time to time, Innergex places a temporary bridge across the creek to facilitate their operational work. Having reliable road access also would make it easier and more cost effective for BC Parks to adequately maintain the trail.
Parking for Singing Pass park goers used to be free. In July, 2017, Resort Municipality of Whistler implemented paid parking in all its lots. Signage is not clear about overnight parking. Park goers are confused and fear having their vehicles towed when going on overnight trips to Singing Pass.
The Singing Pass trail continues to deteriorate. The trail below the Harmony Creek crossing has vanished and the slope on both sides of the creek is eroding badly. There are large boulders which will soon fall on the trail and Harmony Creek is an debris and avalanche chute. An alternative is to relocate the trail head to the valley bottom at the Innergex upstream facility. Build new trail along an existing road in the valley bottom, cross Harmony Creek near its confluence with Fitzsimmons Creek and ascend to the existing trail from there. BC Parks estimates the trail relocation would cost around $31,000.
The Spearhead Amendment, approved in February 2014, to the Garibaldi Park 1990 Master Plan recognized the need to improve vehicle access to the Singing Pass trailhead. A high priority strategy is stated, "work with adjacent land managers to establish a new vehicle-accessible trailhead on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek to provide summer access to the Singing Pass Trail." Hold their feet to the fire. Remind the Minister of Environment that the master plan amendment calls for a public road and parking lot at the Innergex penstock weir up Fitzsimmons Creek. The time to do it is now. Parking is a high priority item as Singing Pass is identified as a main access point to Garibaldi Park.
Whistler Blackcomb has objected to a parking lot at the penstock weir as visually objectionable to its clients on the Peak 2 Peak gondola. WB itself was strategic partner in the Innergex run-of-river power project. Arthur Dejong, Whistler Blackcomb's mountain planning and environmental resource manager said, "70 percent of the land used for the project was already disturbed. Much of the penstock travels under a forest service road that was in use before the Fitzsimmons project was planned." And, according to BC Hydro, "Whistler Blackcomb supported the project from the get-go... It's safe to say that as Peak 2 Peak riders gaze down at Fitzsimmons they are seeing much more than a small power project" refering to its contribution to sustainability in the mountain town of Whistler. The proposed parking lot is already on what is called "disturbed" land. There are already several small graveled areas suitable for parking with trees surrounding them. With landscaping using native plants the parking lot could be more attractive than it is today as bare gravel.
Whistler Blackcomb has objected that the scrap yard called the Boneyard that they maintain on the forestry road would be accessible to the public driving by. It must be already accessible to the public because one can walk or bike by it. If it's a concern, WB should fence the scrap yard.
Recreation Sites and Trails BC is concerned that a parking lot would get overcrowded. Parking lots can be managed, just like they are managed in cities. If parking demand is higher than space there could be a parking fee to encourage car pooling and allocate the available space to whoever wants it most and is willing to pay.
The threat of forest fires can be reduced by stand thinning and brush clearing along the road.
There is a concern that too many people with overcrowd the park. Park overcrowding is can also happen via chairlifts and gondolas. The way to address park overcrowding is not to shut down park access but by increasing recreation opportunities by building more trails.
An Alpine Club of Whistler survey shows the three Spearhead hut will receive annual visitation of 7,000 nights. Some visitors will traverse the Spearhead Range visiting all three hut. Hut visitors will include families with children, seniors and the less physically fit. Not everyone will be able to carry overnight gear all the way from the village. Hiking from the proposed parking lot will shave off 4.5 kilometers and 200 meters of elevation gain. It would enable more people to enjoy the huts rather than just the extremely fit or those who can afford to pay for the lifts.