The FMCBC submitted comments to BC Parks on the draft plan for the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park that was released in April 2014.
Editor’s note: The original version of the article located at this page generated significant negative reaction in the mountain biking community. We apologize for any inadvertent offense we may have caused due to the wording of the piece. This page has been updated and is now hopefully more clear regarding our concerns and recommendations. The original article can be found in our Winter 2011 Cloudburst newsletter. No doubt there will still be disagreements between different groups regarding park management planning, but hopefully we can find solutions that allow all users to enjoy their experience. -Scott Webster, January 27, 2012
South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park (SCMPP) is the latest incarnation of the protected area northeast of Gold Bridge and Bralorne. Previously the Spruce Lake Protected Area, it was modified, renamed, and converted to a Class A park in 2010. The area has had a long history of ranching, mining, and outfitting. Commercial and non-commercial recreation has increased over the past several decades, and now includes horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking, as well as other activities.
BC Parks has begun their management planning process for this park (as of January 2012). Public comments are being accepted until January 31, 2012 for the initial development stage of the Draft Management Plan. There will be further opportunity for public input on the Draft once it is produced. The BC Parks website for this process is located at the following link:
The FMCBC and the Southern Chilcotin Mountains Wilderness Society were instrumental in having the area protected as a provincial park. Our members use the area for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Our members want to ensure that the area is managed to protect values for all users and also to protect the intrinsic wilderness values and wildlife.
From discussions with our members, the issues described in the following sections have been documented with suggestions for possible study and implementation. We would like to discuss these ideas further with BC Parks and other users to determine the best plan for the park.
User Group Conflicts
In many areas of the province conflicts between different groups of recreational users are on the rise. While in some cases different groups can co-exist without issue, it is important to consider possible present and future conflicts during the management planning process. The three main user groups we have identified are hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. While FMCBC members participate in all of these activities, hiking is one of our “core” activities, identified in our mission statement. For this reason we are primarily concerned with the hiking experience in the park. Motorized use is addressed in the following section.
The information attached to the map on BC Parks website, requests that mountain bikers and hikers pass horses on the downhill side of the trail. We suggest that better etiquette is for mountain bikers to dismount and stop when approaching hikers and horses. In some cases it may appear to be safe to bike past other trail users but this may not be possible on steep or narrow trails. Leaving the trail on the downhill side will contribute to erosion. A biker or hiker passing close to horses can cause the animal to spook and can cause injuries to horseback riders, horses or other recreational users. If the bikers or hikers are travelling faster, they should ask where a safe location is to pass. Trail users should stay on the trail at all-times when practical since riding or hiking in meadows can damage vegetation.
We are also concerned with float plane use in the park. Our primary concern is the noise associated with plane traffic and the loss of the “wilderness experience” that noise can cause. Flying to Spruce Lake has been popular for at least 50 years. We recognize that some of the cabin owners use float planes as the primary method of access. Some of our members have reported that float plane traffic has increased significantly over the past 10 years, especially to Spruce Lake. Other lakes of concern that have been identified to us are Lorna (in the adjacent Big Creek Provincial Park) and Warner Lake. We recommend that flights not be permitted to Warner Lake since flights there have just recently started. Depending on usage levels it may at some point be advisable to set limits on the amount of plane traffic permitted in the park. This issue should be investigated and discussed with various user groups including local pilots offering service in the park. A possible starting point could be one or two commercial flights per day to the major destinations. Large numbers of people flying into the centre of the park increases the use of the park; the recreational benefits should be balanced with the impacts associated with increased activity.
Summer off-road vehicle (ORV) use, including ATVs, dirt bikes, and 4-wheel-drive trucks, is currently prohibited in the park. We strongly recommend that this policy be maintained. Our members suggest that the regulations regarding ORV use continue to be clearly posted on the park webpage, but also at the start of access roads leading towards the park and at park boundaries where feasible.
Snowmobiles are sometimes used in the park in the winter. Our members prefer that snowmobiles not be used in SCMPP park to avoid conflicts with non-motorized users, especially backcountry skiers, who are an established user group in the park. Of particular concern is the area around the Eldorado cabin. Ideally, winter recreational land-use planning would consider the entire area and be tailored so that there are sufficient areas without snowmobiles for non-motorized backcountry users to have an enjoyable experience. Snowmobiles have a large impact on backcountry skiers, both through noise, and also with their ability to quickly “track out” large areas, whereas backcountry skiers have minimal impact on snowmobilers.
Trail Erosion and Maintenance
All user groups cause trail erosion. Our members have expressed concern about erosion caused by mountain bikers in the park. The primary concern is actually with off-trail riding, particularly in alpine areas with slow growing vegetation. Horses and mountain bikes can also cause significant erosion on trails, particularly during wet conditions, or with careless technique. Hikers cause trail erosion by shortcutting trails, or stepping to the side of the trail to avoid mud, causing braiding. All user groups should be encouraged to stay on trail whenever possible using the website, appropriate signage, and education by Parks staff. Proper trail use should be especially emphasized to large guided parties.
Damage to trails can be mitigated by trail maintenance and proper construction. User groups should be consulted regarding trail maintenance and design to ensure that trail construction standards are suitable for minimizing impacts during their activities. Volunteer trail maintenance should be embraced by BC Parks to encourage stewardship of the area by frequent users.
We recommend that BC Parks study the number of users in different areas of the park to help with future planning. Areas with high use levels should be upgraded to reduce impact, or restrictions on the number of users could be considered. Our members have expressed concerns that overuse could lead to a negative impact on wildlife and we recommend that BC Parks conducts long term studies on wildlife in the area to track populations and inform the management of the balance between recreation and conservation in the park.