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Snowmobile access contentious issue

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Draft management plan for Callaghan Park draws a crowd

B.C Parks was encouraged by the large Whistler turnout at the first open house held in the corridor to showcase the draft management plan for Callaghan Lake Provincial Park, a small 2.7 hectare Class A protected area situated at the top of the Callaghan forest service road.

The open house was held Monday, Jan. 22 to solicit public input on the plan which will set management direction for the park over the next 10 to 20 years. Other meetings were scheduled for Pemberton, Squamish and North Vancouver.

Most attending the Whistler event had questions for B.C Parks representatives relating to commercial access and to a proposed snowmobile corridor that runs up the Callaghan forest service road, across Callaghan Lake and along a traditional route used by snowmobilers to access the bowls north of the park.

Groups like AWARE feel that allowing snowmobiles in the park could set a precedent for sledders to gain access to other provincial parks.

As AWARE’s Stephan Perron noted to members: "All the main trailheads used by non-motorized users to access the (Pemberton) ice cap now also allow snowmobiles. This park plan might be an opportunity to keep one valley where non-motorized users do not have to deal with the impacts of snowmobiles (noise, smell, disturbance) to reach the ice cap."

Parks extension officer Vicki Haberl said, however, it is not the mandate of B.C. Parks to keep snowmobiles out of provincial parks; that debate has to happen at a political level.

She said snowmobiling is an accepted activity in parks but, in some cases, motorized use may be banned because of potential impact on wildlife values.

"B.C. Parks, per se, does not restrict snowmobiling as an activity," said Haberl. "That fundamental question has already been considered in the broader provincial perspective. But, decisions are based on how appropriate the activity is for a particular park. In Garibaldi Park, for example, is was determined as not being appropriate."

Haberl said Callaghan Park is only a small piece of the greater Callaghan Valley puzzle and activities within the protected area must be in keeping with what goes on outside the park boundaries.

"One of the key objectives of this plan is to manage the park in consideration of how the rest of the valley is managed," she said.

Those who want motorized access banned in Callaghan Park may offer vociferous objection but it won’t necessarily sway parks officials to change that component of the plan.

Haberl noted that preparing a management plan is not a matter of counting up votes for and against activities. "We will make the best management decisions we can, based on public input combined with our knowledge and the broader perspective," said Haberl.

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