A cable car over troubled waters
A plan to replace the Helm Creek cable car across the Cheakamus River with a suspension bridge has been shelved due to cost, but a new cable car is being installed to replace the ageing one.
According to Drew Carmichael, BC Parks district manager for the Garibaldi-Sunshine Coast, the $175,000 price tag for a suspension bridge to join the Helm Creek Trail with the Cheakamus Lake Trail was far too high for their budget. Tenders are coming in this week for a replacement cable car for the crossing and construction of the new car should be complete by the end of September. He could not say how much the new cable car will be because the tenders have not been received.
The cable car tender has opened the often-debated can of worms over access to Garibaldi Provincial Park, 198,000 hectares of protected wilderness adjacent to the Resort Municipality of Whistler and just north of the Lower Mainland.
Some groups have criticized the lack of access to the park and raised concern over plans to create more parks and protected areas in the South-western portion of B.C.
Vocal opposition to new parks has come from the Squamish-based Soo Coalition for Sustainable Forests which says Garibaldi Park should be opened up to more access before any new parks are created in the area. Carmichael says access to the park has been deliberately limited to maintain the integrity of the environment. There were 100,000 recorded visitors to Garibaldi Park last year, but Carmichael says many more unrecorded visits are made to the park every year.
"There was a very public process four years ago that determined we would focus park access on the west side and keep the east side of the park as a natural area," Carmichael says, adding the main access points are at Wedgemount, Singing Pass, Cheakamus Lake, Diamond Head and Black Tusk. There are countless unofficial entry points as well.
Pressure on the park boundaries came to the forefront earlier this month when Interfor was fined almost $200,000 for logging in the park boundaries in the Ure Creek watershed east of Mount Currie. Interfor defended itself saying the logging work occurred because their surveys were based on data from the 1920s. Carmichael says as development — be it logging, skiing or residential — pushes closer to the edge of the park the developers have to pay to have ground surveys completed on the park boundary prior to any work commencing.
Logging work underway on the north and east sides of the park is pushing roads close to the park boundary, but Carmichael says BC Parks often requests timber harvesting companies erect gates on their roads to limit vehicular traffic into the area.
"The park boundary has never been surveyed on the ground. For that to happen would take several million dollars and BC Parks just doesn't have that kind of money," Carmichael says. "As the development nears the park, the boundaries will be surveyed at the expense of the developer."