The province is moving forward with its long-awaited visitor-management strategy for Joffre Lakes Provincial Park despite charges that it has failed to adequately consult with stakeholders, including the Village of Pemberton and local MLA Jordan Sturdy.
"We've been under some very tight deadlines to develop the strategy," said Jennie Aikman, BC Parks' regional director for the South Coast.
There was an opportunity for public input through BC Parks' public survey that closed at the end of April, and there were key stakeholder meetings with Village of Pemberton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District staff on April 23, said Aikman.
Yet that stakeholder session is coming under fire, with Village of Pemberton (VOP) council characterizing it as inadequate at its May 7 regular council meeting.
During that meeting, VOP Mayor Mike Richman said that council had been anticipating that they would be able to comment on a draft management plan, rather than the two-page document of "draft goals" and "actions" that BC Parks has provided council so far.
Now MLA Jordan Sturdy is weighing in on the issue, saying that there should have been consultation with other important stakeholders, such as the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce and conservation and recreation groups.
"I don't understand why it would be exclusive," said Sturdy, of the engagement thus far. "I think it should be a collaborative process. This isn't politics; it's community. We recognize there is a problem, so let's develop some strategies that work for everybody, and that means everyone needs to participate and contribute."
Moreover, Sturdy—who owns and operates North Arm Farm and has served as mayor of the VOP—said he would have liked to have had a seat at the stakeholder meeting.
"I've been participating in discussions on Joffre Lake for 30 years. To be marginalized right now is really, really disappointing," said Sturdy.
Sturdy is also raising concerns over the prospect of day-use fees for the park—something that's being contemplated as a way to manage the crowds.
Such fees could divert visitors to lesser-known areas and be detrimental to the area at large, said Sturdy, who wants to see a "much broader consultation around charging for access to Crown lands" before they are implemented at a single park.
Tori Ball of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) British Columbia, said the organization gave feedback as part of the online survey process, but also would have liked to give input at a stakeholder meeting.
"We really care about how our provincial parks are managed, and (Joffre Lakes Provincial Park) is one that everyone is looking to (to) see how the management will progress in the coming seasons," said Ball. "We want to be involved to ensure that the ecological integrity is prioritized when they are developing new management for parks." According to Aikman, information about the public survey was shared with Sturdy, and as an MLA, he has the right to request a briefing at any time. "That's fully at his discretion," she said.
With regards to the VOP's concerns, she said BC Parks staff is following up with VOP staff.
"Certainly, we've discussed it here and staff will be following up with their contacts on their further input," said Aikman.
BC Parks is working diligently to implement "short-term" management strategies for the summer, she added. These include expanding parking, and potentially establishing a shuttle between Duffey Lake Park and Joffre. "One option is the shuttle service that we are hoping to have in place by 2019, but there (are) still some logistics we are working out, so it hasn't been confirmed," said Aikman.
BC Parks has been working closely with both Lil'wat and N'quatqua First Nations on the plans, and Pique has learned that BC Parks will be hiring two Indigenous park rangers, who will work alongside senior park rangers, this summer.
"They are going to be working alongside a senior park ranger, and the team—the steward and the park ranger—will be doing meaningful cultural, conservation and educational projects in the parks, as well as conducting facility maintenance and doing visitor outreach," said Aikman.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that information about the public survey was shared with MLA Jordan Sturdy, not the results of it.