Parking capacity at Mt. Seymour and Cypress Provincial Parks is an issue that anyone who’s visited the mountains lately is aware of, and it’s one that the FMCBC has been working on — together with BC Parks and commercial ski hill operators — for several years. The parking problem occurs on sunny or good weather days, when even the demand from paying ski resort patrons exceeds parking capacity. Add public park users in the mix, and the parking problem is especially acute. Population growth in the Lower Mainland coupled with the explosive popularity of winter sports like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing have created an ever-increasing strain on these severely under-funded parks, resulting in crowded parking lots, frustrated and confused user groups, and fatigued staff.
Things came to a head earlier this month when signage was put up at Cypress (and on BC Parks’ website) indicating that the backcountry access corridor — a 150 meter long trail that crosses through the ski hill Controlled Recreation Area (CRA) to the edge of the Yew Lake area — would be closed each night from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m., instead of 7 a.m. when the park road opens. Like Mt. Seymour, Cypress has been gated each night in winter from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the last 30 years, with the upper Seymour parking gated in summer at sunset.
The backcountry access corridor was introduced in 1997 as a consensus based solution between BC Parks, the Cypress ski operator and Friends of Cypress to implement the recommendations of the 1995 Williams Special Planning Commission. BC Parks says the new 9 a.m. restriction was implemented due to dangers posed by early morning grooming and avalanche control, but backcountry users of the Howe Sound Crest Trail or other extended trips allege that the delayed opening may actually make things less safe by forcing them to find their way back to the parking lot after dark, or find alternate unsanctioned access points.
It’s a thorny issue involving many different factors and stakeholders. On the one hand, you have people who have paid to access the ski hill and a resort that is paying to clear parking lots for their use. On another, you have backcountry recreationists who feel they have a right to access a public park, and that their rights are no less than those of paying patrons. Add to that a strong contingent of conservationists who worry that creating additional parking to accommodate the influx of visitors will remove upper elevation park area and detract from the natural beauty of the area and you have a very complex issue with no easy solutions.
Still, the FMCBC remains committed to collaborating with various user groups to ensure that everyone who wants to access the park — for downhill skiing, tobogganing, backcountry hiking, or just playing in the snow — is able to, reasonably and safely. Our recreation and conservation committee has been hard at work discussing ways to improve the situation at Cypress and Seymour, from improved public transit connections to better education about backcountry safety and alternate publicly accessible backcountry recreation areas, particularly areas orientated to families or which are beginner-friendly. We also continue to push for more operational funding for BC Parks, which we believe would go a long way towards alleviating this issue.
For an excellent backgrounder on the situation at Cypress and some great discussion points, please read Steve Jones’ article “Collaborating on a solution,” published last week. If you have any ideas of your own about how things could be improved at both Cypress and Seymour, please get in touch with us, or send your thoughts directly to BC Parks.
If you’d like to receive email updates from the FMCBC on the parking and backcountry access situation at Mount Seymour and/or Cypress Provincial Park, please click here to sign up via our online form.
Thank you to Monika Bittel and Alex Wallace for lending their knowledge and experience to this post.