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Spearhead hut proposal near Whistler gets the go-ahead from BC Parks

Expanded mountain-biking expansion in Garibaldi Park gets thumbs down while heli-skiing gets continued support



BC Parks has given the go-ahead to the Spearhead Huts proposal, continues to support heli-skiing in Garibaldi Park, and stuck with its decision not to allow mountain biking into the Spearhead area.

The news came in the long-awaited management plan amendment to the Garibaldi Provincial Park plan, which was completed on February 21 and released this week.

It provides complimentary management direction to the 1990 Garibaldi Park Master Plan. The 1990 Master Plan still guides the management of other areas of Garibaldi Park outside of the Spearhead Area. Much of the general management direction in the 1990 Master Plan continues to apply within the Spearhead Area.

The amendment, based on public and stakeholder input, gives the go-ahead for proponents of winter-hut recreation to propose plans, but a series of conditions must be met including that the huts will be available to the public with fair opportunity to secure overnight accommodation and proposals with lower overnight accommodation fees may be favoured.

The huts will provide modest facilities to support self-sufficient and self-propelled users, and they will be located and designed to accommodate winter ski-touring and may require the development of summer hiking trails connecting to the huts.

The hut proposal must also minimize the impact to the park itself and include safety plans.

Though BC Parks received considerable support for allowing increased mountain biking in the park it has not changed its position on the recreation inside Garibaldi Park.

"BC Parks considered all the public feedback and acknowledges that there is a strong interest from mountain biking stakeholder groups in developing some access to the Spearhead Area," states the amendment plan.

"However, due to the potential for adverse impacts to alpine ecology and wildlife, the plan amendment maintains the direction to not expand mountain biking in the study area. This is based on a fundamental concern that the decision to introduce mountain biking to the Spearhead Area could result in irreversible impacts to sensitive alpine ecosystems."

The plan also supports heli-skiing until its tenure ends in 2016 and suggests that it may continue until 2026. This has been a contentious issue with the majority of public and stakeholders in the Garibaldi Park Master Plan process asking that heli-skiing be stopped in the area.

It grew more contentious last November when it was revealed that Whistler Blackcomb, owner of Whistler Heli-skiing, got an advance peak at the amendment plan while no other stakeholder was allowed to see it.

The 1990 Master Plan supported restrictions on all motorized access in Garibaldi Park, including aircraft access. However, a decision was made to allow heli-skiing to continue, an exception to the overarching vision for Garibaldi Park to be non-motorized. The heli-skiing permit was restricted to the geographic extent of the existing permit area held by Whistler Heli-Skiing.

The amendment states that: The heli-skiing opportunities will continue to be a recreation service offered in the park. However, no new areas will be considered within the park for additional heli-skiing."

But that: "By no later than 2026, BC Parks will develop a recommendation on the future of heli- skiing that meets the vision of the park, and addresses impacts on key park values. The recommendation could include continuing, adjusting, or eliminating heli-skiing."

Pick up Pique Thursday for more on this story


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