Saving the Spearhead: what is at stake
With two public hearings, held by BC Parks, and another two fundraisers, this November, the Spearhead Huts Project is making strong headway towards its final goal. The goal is a backcountry trail and hut system along the Spearhead mountain range.
The range is a high-alpine link between the resorts on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain. The system will consist of the construction of three new huts along with multiple trails. The reasoning for the creation of this hut and trail system is to minimize backcountry users impact on the environment by concentrating the users to fewer spaces. On the surface this may appear to be great news to environmentalists and backcountry users alike.
But as an environmental sustainability student and an avid backcountry user myself, I believe that these huts will not be a sustainable solution. What is even more frustrating, is that the proposed huts and trails could ultimately be less sustainable than the current system in place.
Everyone knows that the Spearhead traverse is seeing more and more summer and winter visitors every year. On nice days it is not uncommon to see as many as one hundred backcountry users. This has, without a doubt, had an impact on the environment mostly due to human excrements. Human excrements, however, could easily be addressed with the installation of latrines with removable holding containers, which are flown out by helicopter. Examples of this can be seen at Wedgemount Lake Provincial Park.
However, the addition of new trails and huts along side latrines will greatly increase the ecological footprint of human use in the Spearhead range. This is because we will be drastically shaping the current Spearhead range into a more socially constructed environment. Trails and huts will just prove more that we are effectively shaping the environment to meet our needs.
The northwest portion of the Spearhead range has obviously been extremely developed due to the Whistler-Blackcomb resort. The creation of huts and trails around the Spearhead would only be the finishing touches to fully developing the entire range. This would leave the Spearhead range with no portion untouched by human creations.
Currently hundreds of people a year are able to complete the Spearhead without the aid of trails and huts. Improved amenities along the Spearhead would undoubtedly bring far more traffic to the area. This high traffic volume will increase environmental impacts on the land due to the destruction of flora and fauna, and spooking the wildlife.
A topic that has not been addressed by the Spearhead Huts Project is the matter of overflow camping. When the huts are fully occupied, where will the overflow users stay? Increased overflow camping around the huts could influence even more development in the form of constructing tenting grounds.