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Pemby council set to tackle backcountry busyness problems

Joffre Lakes parking and garbage out of control

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It seems everyone is still feeling the heat of summer.

Village of Pemberton (VOP) council on Tuesday at its regular meeting wrestled with issues of overcrowding, illegal highway parking and overflowing garbage at Joffre Lakes and Strawberry Point — and the state of the backcountry in general.

Councillor Jennie Helmer broached the issue during the regular council meeting.

"I've been watching it all unfold and I'm really concerned that it's the Pemberton Music Festival culture where anything goes," she said, adding that the sheer volume of tourists is imposing tremendous pressure on the ecosystem.

"I think we should be lobbying to protect this area. It's part of our venture gateway." Helmer said.

Counc. Ted Craddock said it's not just the Pemberton area, but the entire Sea to Sky corridor that is reeling from the number of tourists.

"If you start from Squamish and take it all the way to Lillooet, the pressure is the same everywhere," Craddock said. "At the (Sea to Sky) gondola, people are parking on the highway — from here to past Lillooet, you can't camp."

At issue is that the Sea to Sky corridor has suddenly ramped up with tourist traffic, and councillors agreed that it is sudden, compared to areas such as Cultus Lake or Harrison Hot Springs, where the increase occurred over years.

Coun. Karen Ross echoed what many observers have noted about Joffre Lakes: The parking is unmanageable as people leave their cars on the narrow stretch of roadway.

Mike Richman, VOP mayor, said: "We're a product of our own success." He cited the provincial government and its mandate to double tourism in B.C.

"Then you have to accommodate it," Richman said. "It's constant — we're the recreation mecca."

Helmer expressed concerns that any action may further impact the unique nature of the Sea to Sky corridor. "I don't want to see a three-storey parking lot at Joffre," she said.

Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) director Russell Mack was on hand for the meeting, and he said that the provincial government created these spaces, then abandoned them.

"They abandoned it before anyone was coming. They're not stepping up to the plate," he said.

Richman said the issue will be brought up at the next SLRD meeting. While Helmer suggested the possibility of temporary closures when the area gets too busy, Richman said the first step will be to get the ministry of environment, which is responsible for parks, to at least increase garbage collection.

"Most of these things are in the SLRD and... I'm going to propose some kind of lobbying efforts," said Richman. "We have to figure out some way to accommodate that."



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