The cutbacks to BC Parks staff and funding has been well-documented in B.C. and locally several park advocates have gone public to demand that more is done to maintain the world-class hiking and backcountry experience that Whistler was once famous for.
The most recent person to step forward is Al Jenkins, a former Area Supervisor for Garibaldi Park. He hiked Black Tusk for the first time in five years in October and was dismayed by what he found - especially along a section of trail from Taylor Meadows to the Black Tusk Junction. He has posted a video on YouTube showing the damage, as well as taken photos to share with groups like the Federation of Mountain Clubs in B.C. and the Wilderness Committee.
"It's a money problem, and to get the money we're going to have to get people to dig into their wallets and provide donations to B.C. Parks," he said.
"Because (the park) is provincially funded, groups like (Mountain Equipment Co-op) don't go there; they stick to (funding upkeep on) Crown land. But I think if we can generate interest we'll get enough people coming forward to help solve this problem."
The issue is maintenance. The water bars have eroded, drainages are blocked up and the trail no longer drains properly over large areas. As a result, on wet and muddy days a lot of hikers visiting the park opt to walk through the sensitive meadows on either side of the trail and are causing damage there as well.
Jenkins doesn't know if the erosion is from one big rainfall event or just wear and tear, but he said wear and tear is definitely a part of the issue - and there's no budget in BC Parks to keep up with the maintenance. Since he doesn't see much hope for more provincial funding in the future, he'd like to mobilize the public to assist.
"Lots of people from Whistler and who visit Whistler use this area, and now there's a bridge over the Cheakamus River you get a lot more people doing round trips up there," he said.
"And because of cutbacks to ranger staffing we're also seeing more cyclists in the area. It's a bit of a disaster happening."
Some money has been spent on the trail in recent years, including new boardwalk sections and an upgraded trail near the Taylor Meadows campground, but Jenkins said that's all that BC Parks can do with their current level of funding.
"BC Parks has been working at it in little pieces over the past few years and really did a great job boardwalking the section at Taylor Campground, which gets tremendous usage...so the expertise is there," he said.
Jenkins said BC Parks has already set up an account for the trail, and will be able to provide donors with tax receipts for their donations. All he wants to do is get the ball rolling so the fundraising can begin.
"I just can't sit back and watch this Meadows situation deteriorate even further," he said. "I was there for the original upgrading of the horse trails in the Meadows in the '60s, and I don't want to see it go back to that."
The YouTube video is available by searching for "Black Tusk Meadows Trail."
If you want to get involved in the campaign you can reach Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the fall, the province announced that the budget for Garibaldi Park was increasing from $38,300 to $61,900, after complaints regarding the state of hiking trails to Singing Pass and the broken outhouse at Russet Lake. The outhouse was repaired this year.
Whistler's Jayson Faulkner has also started a fundraising campaign to upgrade the Singing Pass trails and create a cabin network and trails around the Spearhead Traverse.