Joffre Lakes Park Visitor Strategy – Public Review
BC Parks is asking for public input on a strategy to control the number of hikers that can hike the popular trail in the summer. The Federation is concerned since this is the first proposed implementation of a day-use reservation system after the the pilot-project last summer. We think that BC Parks is proposing to allow too many people to hike this trail, but the strategy document is not clear what the proposed strategy is or why they are considering it.
We are also concerned that this trail is a huge drain on the limited funding for BC Parks. BC Parks has indicated that they don’t plan to charge for access to the trail but don’t indicate how they will pay for the staff required to enforce the reservation system.
The following sections follow the order in the government strategy document.
Maintain the campsite closures during the winter, due to extreme avalanche risk.
The current campsite location at the south end of Upper Joffre Lake is not safe in the winter. Is BC Parks going to ban camping at other locations in the winter? Near the toilets at Middle Joffre Lake seems like a safe location but we realize that BC Parks may not have the resources to manage that.
Maintain trailhead accessibility in winter
We are pleased with this objective! We have missed visiting here in winter 2021.
Trail and Infrastructure Maintenance
Maintain and invest in trails and infrastructure
How much is the yearly maintenance budget for the trail? We are concerned that this is a low priority for BC Parks. The description is very vague about possible improvements.
Identify day-use visitor capacities for the park
The new strategy document is very vague about this and how this will be done.
The report at this link: https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/joffre_lks/docs/joffre-vums-background-document.pdf talks about a visitor carrying capacity limit of 1500 people per day. This seems too high in our opinion. Why is that not included in the strategy document? Please add to an appendix. There shouldn’t be 100 people at the popular viewpoint by Middle Joffre Lake at any time. How does a limit of 1500 people per day not lead to crowds? We realize that everyone doesn’t all arrive at once, but once the parking lots fill up, a lot of people will be to Upper Joffre Lake by noon.
How many parking spaces are currently in the two lots?
We found one report that listed 250 spots, another website listed 350 spots.
If you take: 150*2=300
That makes for over 500 people at once. It seems like too large a number to us.
If there are 250 or 350 parking spaces, 1500 people a day seems very high since you couldn’t book an afternoon slot as tried in the 2020 pilot project, since the area is a three-hour drive from Vancouver. If people don’t arrive until 10 or 11 am, they won’t leave until 3 or 4 pm and there won’t be any parking spaces for people arriving for an afternoon slot.
Explore allotment of a portion of any approved day-use permits for commercial use.
Since this is such a popular park, a very small percentage of parking spots or passes should be reserved for commercial groups. The public will not support large groups of tourists.
Examine the implementation of a day-use permit system to manage visitors within park capacity.
The pilot project last year for other popular hikes proved that people are very upset about having to reserve the same day at 6 am. This is not acceptable to our members.
Reservations at 6 am do not allow a proper trip plan to be prepared.
One of the primary messages that hiking clubs and AdventureSmart try to emphasize for hikers to follow is: Be Prepared. That includes having a detailed plan of where you are going, who you are going with and when will you return. This trip plan needs to be left with a responsible person who can inform the police if people are late returning.
Day-use reservations that are issued at 6 am don’t allow hikers to prepare properly. A trip to Joffre Lakes needs to be planned at least the night before since people want to leave home at 6 am or earlier.
A day-use reservation without an assured parking space doesn’t allow for a good plan to be prepared either since if there is no parking, hikers will go somewhere else where they might not have the proper information for. Since there is no cellular service on Highway 99 near Joffre Lakes this can lead to situations where no one knows where the hikers are.
Mountaineers were the original developers of the trail, however, there doesn’t seem to be any plan for allowing reservations for mountaineering access. Can we start before 7 am without a permit? Will there be a way to reserve a bivouac permit similar to the process in Garibaldi Park?
Implement reserved parking
This is a location where reserved parking makes more sense since if people get a day-use permit and there is no parking available the users will be very frustrated and mad after driving hours to the trailhead.
There needs to be parking spaces reserved for groups with overnight camping permits. The number of spaces needs to include both the people arriving and leaving since people will want to park before the departing groups leave the parking lot.
Parking lot currently controlled by MOTI
The parking lots need to be added to the park to allow BC Parks contractors and staff the ability to manage the lots.
Reduce the size of parking lots?
We realize that politically it is difficult to charge for parking or day-use permits. Maybe a better solution is to just reduce the number of parking spaces and add more rangers on the actual trail to help with issues.
Effect on other areas
Having the Joffre Lakes area closed in 2020 and the most popular hikes close to Vancouver with visitor limits put huge pressures on other hiking locations in the Sea to Sky area. We are concerned about over-use at several other locations that have resulted in negative environmental impacts. The FMCBC has prepared a proposal for a new Trail User Experience Improvement Program to improve and manage the hiking trails in the South Coast Region (especially the Lower Mainland (North Shore), Sea to Sky and Pemberton areas). We also need more funding and a strategy to deal with hiking trails outside of BC Parks. Recreation Sites and Trails BC is so underfunded. Rohr Lake and Semaphore Lakes are just two examples of locations with major issues.