Concerns surrounding road access within the proposed Natural Resources Road Act (NRRA) were taken to Victoria recently, when Whistler’s mayor attended the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention.
During a Whistler council meeting in July, the mayor expressed her concern that once the piece of provincial legislation was implemented, the NRRA could diminish access to trails in the Sea to Sky corridor.
Her comments followed a presentation by Martin Pardoe, manager of parks planning, who delivered recommendations from the Hiking Trails Task Force report.
The task force was created to inventory existing alpine hiking trails, identify new trails and assess maintenance needs and priorities for trail access within Whistler boundaries.
Many of the trails included in the inventory are accessible solely by forest service roads, noted Wilhelm-Morden, which may be affected by the implementation of the NRRA.
According to the report, there has been no planning in the past to maintain strategic forest service roads as permanent recreational access roads for the purpose of hiking.
The report also states that the costs to upgrade or even to maintain the forest service roads are now becoming very high, “however, without significant improvements to access roads that lead to our alpine trailheads, we cannot grow and promote this huge resource.”
These concerns were addressed at the UBCM convention in September, Wilhelm-Morden noted in a phone interview with The Question on Monday.
In addition to attending a workshop held for regional district directors where the proposed road act was discussed, the mayor also participated in a meeting with senior ministry officials, along with chief administrative officer (CAO) Mike Furey, to get some key questions answered.
“As I understand it,” she said, “the impetus behind this new act is to act as a bit of a consolidation for all the regulations governing natural resource roads.”
Brennan Clarke, spokesperson for the ministry, agrees.
The act’s main purpose would be to streamline the governance of roughly 450,000 kilometres of natural resource roads in the province and to consolidate the 11 different acts that currently exist to regulate resource roads, he said.
“They are also going to address the liability issues,” she added, “because that is a continuing source of problems for not just the province, but for the people who constructed these natural resource roads in the first place. And then this legislation will talk about entering into agreements with other users of those roadways once the natural resource people have left and no longer need the roads.”
The legislation is set to be rolled out in the fall of 2014.
The mayor indicated that as a result of these meetings, internal discussions with staff have developed the project idea to consolidate a road atlas or inventory of all the resource roads in the resort municipality of Whistler.
Once this is completed, she said, to take it a step further, it must be determined who is actually maintaining these roadways and what trailheads are accessed by those roads, “so that we can start figuring out which of these roads in our municipality are priority for us and then we can have some discussions with the province after that.”