Members of the Salt Spring Trail Riders group and other equestrians in the community are calling on BC Parks to reverse course on work at Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park that has limited recreational trail use for many participants.
Along with environmental restoration work done at the park in 2020, part of a multi-use trail loop was decommissioned and a metal grid bridge was replaced with a smaller span with steps, through which horse riders can’t pass and is difficult for cyclists and some hikers. A series of swales created across old logging roads on the lower reaches of Mount Sullivan has meanwhile made portions of a trail still designated for multi-use more difficult to navigate.
Watershed and ecosystem restoration work has been done in consultation and in partnership with First Nations with interest in the area.
“No one disputes that the plan to restore wetlands and control watercourses is a worthy park management initiative. What is troubling is the lack of dialogue, or opportunity for community input regarding the impacts of that work. Little serious attempt seems to have been made by BC Parks to find ways to meet the concerns of park users,” stated Salt Spring Trail Riders member Patricia Lockie, in an appeal for community support.
As of Monday, a petition to preserve multi-use trails had gained nearly 1,100 signatures in just six days.
Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park was established in 2004 after an an extensive public campaign to protect the land. Texada Land Corporation had clear-cut much of the forest on Mount Sullivan in the five years prior, while the valley had been transformed for agriculture use beginning in the 1860s. Funds to purchase the park were raised by a coalition of federal, provincial and local governments and several environmental groups.
The management plan adopted in 2015 included stakeholder and community consultation, with participation by Salt Spring Trail Riders and the Back Country Horsemen of B.C.’s Salt Spring chapter, among other groups. Lockie was among community members who lobbied for recreational trails suitable for all types of users.
BC Parks was not able to provide an official response to concerns before the Driftwood’s press deadline. In correspondence to community members concerned by the project, area supervisor Sarah Joanisse explained the bridge structure and fill to support it was slumping into the creek, which was causing “negative effects on the habitat in the salmon-bearing stream below, and in 2018 caused damage to an archaeological site downstream at the head of the bay.”
The 400-metre section of trail that was decommissioned is a separate issue, in that it had led park visitors onto private property. Access to the next trail ran through a private road shared by three property owners.
Joanisse had previously said BC Parks would be willing to consider an alternate route, but after a site visit they turned down the option proposed by the Salt Spring Trail and Nature Club given the confines of the geography, which includes a forested gully along the park’s boundary line.
Trail users are frustrated the offer seemingly ended there.
“In spite of hours and hours of on-site research and recommendations for alternate trail routes by one user group, BC Parks management does not seem inclined to listen,” Lockie wrote in the appeal. “This is disrespectful to a community that raised more than a million dollars to help purchase the Burgoyne Bay lands, enabling their rescue from the industrial logging operations of the Texada Land Corporation.”
Islands Trust trustee Peter Grove has written to BC Parks to support community members who feel management has been unresponsive to their requests for participation.
“Of particular concern to me is that this work is proceeding without input from our community and those who use the park. There is a long history of community involvement with the park and the development of the management plan and so it would seem appropriate to continue to involve us in your plans,” Grove wrote in a letter dated Jan. 18. “I ask that you meet with community members and user groups to discuss the concerns raised and how they might best be addressed.”
The trail riding group has asked community members to support multi-use trails by signing their petition “Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park Multi-Use Trails Under Threat” at change.org, and to write to BC Parks management at Sarah.Joanisse@gov.bc.ca and to MLA Adam Olsen at adam.olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca.