News » Whistler

Skaha Bluffs access secured

Partnership creates parking lot, preserves access to Okanagan climbing area.



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The newly acquired land falls within the proposed Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, as recommended in the Okanagan Shuswap Land and Resource Management Plan. The property is comprised of coniferous forest, riparian areas, rugged terrain and some shrub-steppe grasslands — habitat that helps support up to 15 species-at-risk, including California bighorn sheep.

The Skaha Bluffs climbing area is a collection of over 50 gneiss cliffs with over 800 climbs ranging from 10 to 55 metres in length. The region’s long season draws about 18,000 climbers annually from around the world – and in particular from southern B.C. and Alberta. While roughly 75 per cent of the Bluffs used by climbers are located on Crown (public) land, the Bluffs are isolated by a continuous strip of private, residential developments and agricultural land.

“Everybody’s thrilled there’s a piece of property that’s been bought,” said Sean Dougherty, Penticton area climber, guidebook author and owner/operator of the website. “It’s big, and only a small piece needs to be used as a parking lot. The land will provide access for a wide variety of users, including mountain bikers and the sheep, and conservationists. A lot of uses will have to be accommodated in some way, shape or form.”

But while the land purchase does provide a long-term solution, Dougherty said, arrangements for the 2008 spring climbing season have yet to be sorted out.

“It’s not clear what’s going to happen this year at all,” Dougherty said. “There remains a lot to be done. The road is not sufficiently good to allow passage of 100 cars on Easter weekend. And we do have to drive across someone else’s property to get to it. It’s not a simple slam dunk. The solution is still a work in progress.”

For those familiar with the Skaha climbing area, the new parking will be situated directly to the south of the bluffs – an immediate right turn from the top of the long, steep staircase sport climbers have been grumbling their way up for years.

“It will make the walk shorter, there won’t be any stairs, it will be the same level as the stairs,” Dougherty said.

Stairs or not, all parties agree the news is good news.