Representatives from the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) met with BC Parks last Thursday (Jan. 10) to discuss the group’s preliminary vision for the potential inclusion of mountain biking in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The meeting took place on the last day BC Parks was accepting public input on its updated Garibaldi Park Draft Management Plan. The amended plan was released in November and despite over 80 per cent of respondents to a BC Parks survey in favour of expanding mountain bike access in some form, the province was not receptive to the idea at the time, citing concerns over environmental impact and potential conflict with hikers.
WORCA arranged the meeting with BC Parks’ officials to outline their preliminary plans for a biking trail and to help further their relationship with the provincial department.
“We’re proposing a connection between Whistler Village and Singing Pass. This, we’re thinking would be a one-way ascending trail, and then a proposed connection from Singing Pass down to Cheakamus Lake that would tie into the existing multi-use trails, and then some sort of an alpine loop around the Musical Bumps, which would likely require either modification of the existing trail or a new trail,” said WORCA’s director of planning Emily Mann.
The mountain biking association feels the area contains the most suitable terrain for a multi-use trail because hiking access up the Singing Pass trail “is not very desirable as a day-hike because it’s so long and somewhat boring,” according to Mann, thus reducing the potential for conflict.
She stressed that the potential trail would “have a different appeal than Top of the World” and falls in-line with the province’s wish to keep the provincial park at “a distance from the resort products.” The trail would be situated within Whistler Blackcomb’s controlled recreation area.
David Karn, a media relations officer for the Ministry of the Environment, said in an email that the meeting was “very positive,” and added that it set “a foundation for ongoing dialogue between BC Parks and WORCA.”
According to Mann, who joined WORCA’s director of trails Tim Andrews and Jerome David, a member of the group’s trails committee at the meeting, BC Parks continued to have concerns about the potential biking access expansion.
“Their big concern is people riding off-trail in alpine areas … It’s hard to really completely convince someone of the behaviour of a large group of people when you don’t have a lot of examples, but we really feel, from a biking perspective, a rider wants to be on the trail. There’s actually not a lot of enjoyment or desire to start riding all over the place,” she said. “Their other fear is illegal trail building because they’ve experienced this around Alice Lake Park.”
Mann said the major difference between their proposed trail and Alice Lake Park, is that the Singing Pass area can only be reached by two main public access points. Alice Lake Park, however, borders on a network of existing trails making it easier to access, thereby increasing the potential for illegal trail building.
Besides presenting WORCA’s nascent plans for increased bike access in the park, Mann said the meeting was meant to further establish a relationship with BC Parks — one she hopes will benefit both sides in the future.
“We think we can offer BC Parks a way to communicate with mountain bikers,” she said. “They’re already encountering management issues with people poaching trails and riding illegally in the park, so we wanted to offer to be able to help BC Parks communicate with riders and send out a message of what’s allowed and what’s not allowed in the park.”
She added that BC Parks’ perception of the effect mountain biking can have on trails may be skewed since they are only taking into account the harm done to trails that have been poached illegally, and not ones that are specifically designed for biking.
As per BC Parks’ current management plan, finalized in 1990, mountain bikers are allowed access to the Red Heather Ridge trail up to the Elfin Shelter and the Cheakamus River Trail in the park, although some bikers have accessed unauthorized areas in the past via the Singing Pass Trail and Whistler Blackcomb’s controlled recreation area.
The municipality will release its report on the BC Parks’ Garibaldi plan on Friday (Jan. 18). Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden would not say if the muni’s response to the plan includes consideration of mountain biking in the park, but that “we’re going to be speaking about multi-use and we’re responding on a very high level.”
The province will now review the amendment taking the public’s comments into consideration, and consult with local First Nations before the plan can go to the Ministry of Environment for approval, expected in April.
The draft management plan is available in its entirety at www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/garibaldi/garibaldi_mp.html.